Written by John Davidson
Photo by Sky sports
Blake Austin runs the risk of damaging his injured ankle more if he runs out at Wembley in the Challenge Cup final this weekend.
That’s according to Brien Seeney, an Australian physiotherapist better known by his Twitter handle ‘NRLPhysio’. Seeney has become a cult figure in rugby league because of his injury analysis.
Austin suffered ligament damage to his ankle in Warrington’s 30-10 loss to Catalans in France. The bearded five-eighth has not played since and is fighting to be able to take part this Saturday in the final against St Helens.
The struggling Wolves head to Wembley after five losses in a row in Super League and two wins from their past eight matches in all competitions. They are desperate for Austin, their chief playmaker and contender for the Man of Steel award, to play in London if they hope to upset the heavily favoured Saints.
The ‘will he/won’t he play’ saga is the biggest talking point ahead of the showpiece UK event.
Seeney believes allowing Austin to play at Wembley, even if he has his ankle needed up before kick off, could lead to further damage.
With three rounds of Super League to come after the Cup final, as well as the semi-finals, it is a tough decision for Warrington to risk the halfback.
“The sydesmosis is the anatomical name for the high ankle, so it’s likely Austin suffered a high ankle sprain or syndesmosis injury,” Seeney told Everything Rugby League.
“A high ankle sprain is tougher to recover from than the traditional lateral ankle sprain, when you roll your ankle. In terms of recovery time it comes down to the grading of the damage.
A general guide is grade 1: 1-4 weeks, grade 2: 4-8 weeks. From what I’ve read it sounds like he has a grade 2 injury, a partial tear, as I’ve seen some reports him needing to let the torn ligament heal.
“The danger is re-injury, and further injury, to the ankle. Pain is a bit of a limiting factor but it more comes down to strength/balance/stability, which a needle won’t help with. It’s more down to rehab exercises.”
Austin is expected to train with Warrington this week to assess his fitness for the final. The Australian told The Warrington Guardian newspaper on Monday: “The injury has come at a bad time of the year. Obviously there’s no better healer than time, and time was always going to be against us.
“But I’ve had really good improvements in the short time we’ve had. I’m going to give it longer to allow that ligament to heal the best we can before I try and have a trot on the paddock. We’ll know definitely from that point where we stand.”
Warrington coach Steve Price said on Monday Austin still has a brace on his ankle, but is making progress.
“We’ll give him to the back end of the week,” Price told Everything Rugby League.
“We’ve got Jack Hughes and Josh Charnley who are looking pretty good too. We’ll give them another couple of days before we make a decision. Hopefully it’s positive, if it’s not, then it’s a perfect opportunity for someone else who hasn’t played at this stage to become Warrington legends.”
Warrington have a number of options in the halves if Austin is unavailable. Stefan Ratchford could be moved from fullback to number 6 to partner Dec Patton, while forwards Ben Currie and Harvey Livett also have experience in the halves. The other recognised halfback in the Wolves squad is 18-year-old Riley Dean who only made his Super League debut against St Helens earlier this month.