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Leeds Rhinos “don’t pay their players as well” – Blake Austin speaks out on his departure

Blake Austin was a popular player in Super League. Across spells with Warrington Wolves, Leeds Rhinos and, briefly, the Castleford Tigers, he made over 100 appearances, scoring 35 tries. He was due to spend the entire 2023 season with Leeds Rhinos, however, his spell came to an abrupt end in August last year.

With Austin playing regularly in a struggling Rhinos side, he gave a string of explosive post-match interviews. Austin called out the Leeds hierarchy for failing to reward him for his performances with the club with a new contract.

Now, speaking on his Instagram page, Austin has offered a dramatic insight into how his departure from Headingley came about. He claims head coach, Rohan Smith, told him that a new deal would be on the table, only to change his mind and inform Austin he was reconsidering the offer.

Quiz: Can you name all these ex-Leeds Rhinos players?

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Austin claims Leeds Rhinos “don’t pay their players as well as other clubs”

Leeds Rhinos

Credit: Imago Images

Austin claimed that Smith offered him a one-year extension on the same terms at his previous deal, following Leeds’ game against Huddersfield in 2023. However, that offer was then re-considered, without Austin being informed.

“In terms of why I left abruptly, look, I spat the dummy a little bit for sure, but I was pretty upset with how my contract was dealt with. I was 33 years old. Rohan was very aware of what I was capable of.” Austin said.

“There was a game at Headingley against Huddersfield. I had a pretty good match and celebrated the match in the lovely sheds of Headingley after.

“Rohan sort of took it upon himself to come over and sit next to me and basically had a chat to say that if I’m happy to stick around, he wants me to stay for another year. He said, listen, it’ll only be a one-year contract. It’ll be the same money that you’re on, which was fairly modest for my abilities. As we know, Leeds don’t pay their players as well as some other clubs.”

When the contract offer never materialised, Austin confronted Smith in an attempt to clarify his future with the Rhinos.

“[Smith’s] reply was that there had been a few things that had happened over the last little while that had made him reconsider. And I sort of said, well, that’s all good and well, but you sort of engaged in convo with me to tell me, you know, you wanted me to stick around. And I felt like he enjoyed delivering that good news to me. So I just felt like I was owed the courtesy of, you know, letting me know if things had changed.

So he sort of acknowledged that he got that wrong and he probably should have called me back in to let me know.”

Austin given three reasons for Leeds departure

Blake Austin

Credit: Imago Images

Austin then went on to claim that he was given three reasons for Leeds’ decision to reconsider their contract offer. One of which was a bust-up with Leeds’ captain, Cameron Smith, which was cited by Smith.

“One was like, you had an epidural on your back, one that I never asked for. One was that you had a little tiff with Cam Smith on the training paddock, was a you know a little back and forth, nothing major and I thought it was left at that.

“And the other one was a fair call, I played an away game at Leigh Centurions, some of the Rhinos fans would probably remember. I tried a little bit too hard, we you know we lost Aidan, me and Jack Sinfield were in the halves and instead of letting the young kid sort of you know carry his weight in the team I sort of tried to shoulder both halves responsibilities and tried too hard and it didn’t end as well. We lost the match obviously and so I was in agreeance with that one.”

“But my biggest gripe was that he didn’t feel the need to come back and let me know. I thought at 33 years old I sort of had that respect to at least at a bare minimum, keep me in the loop.”

Austin then went on to explain that a desire to get back at the club was part of the motivation for his transfer to Castleford. However, he apologised to his team mates for leaving them in the lurch wit his departure.

” I thought what better way to get back at the guy that had been stuffing me around a little bit than to ask for a release 12 hours before deadline day.” Austin stated.

It left my teammates in a pretty tough spot. You know, I expressed a real sorry to them guys, even though, you know, words don’t mean much, I sort of left them in the lurch. And if I had my time again, you know, I might do things differently.” He added.

“And in the end, as I said, I threw me toys out of the pram, but that’s life, ain’t it? I’m a bit of a sulker at times as most of us can. But yeah it was a sad way to end but here I am back in Oz we live we learn we move on.”

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