Blake Austin of the Raiders off loads the ball during the round 15 NRL match between the Penrith Panthers and the Canberra Raiders at Carrington Park in Bathurst, Saturday, June 10, 2017. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Blake Austin of the Raiders off loads the ball during the round 15 NRL match between the Penrith Panthers and the Canberra Raiders at Carrington Park in Bathurst, Saturday, June 10, 2017. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Raiders bust Austin back to bench

RICKY Stuart has dropped a selection bombshell for Canberra with star five-eighth Blake Austin benched for the season opener against the Titans.

The returning Sam Williams will start at halfback with Aidan Sezer switching to five-eighth.

It remains to be seen if such a move is related to the Josh Hodgson injury - as expected, Tongan international Siliva Havili has been named to start at dummy half.

Austin has been relegated to the bench.
Austin has been relegated to the bench.

Austin may spell Havili midway through the match, or Sezer or Williams could switch to dummy half once Austin enters the fray.

Sezer and Williams started in the halves for Canberra's only trial, a 16-12 loss to the Bulldogs, with Sezer moving to hooker once Austin came on late in the first half in that match.

Williams, who returned to the club this year after a season with Wakefield in England, has partnered Sezer in the halves five times before, all in 2016.

Austin was previously named to start on the bench for Canberra's season opener two years ago, also behind Williams, but was elevated to the starting side at the last minute.

In other Raiders selection news, Elliott Whitehead has been named at lock with Joseph Tapine lining up at second row.

Dunamis Lui will also make his return from a knee reconstruction on the bench.

New recruit Charlie Gubb has missed out, but has been named on an extended bench along with fellow new boys Brad Abbey and Craig Garvey.

RAIDERS TEAM FOR ROUND 1

1. Jack Wighton 2. Nick Cotric 3. Jarrod Croker (c) 4. Joseph Leilua 5. Jordan Rapana 6. Aidan Sezer 7. Sam Williams 8. Junior Paulo 9. Siliva Havili 10. Shannon Boyd 11. Josh Papalii 12. Joseph Tapine 13. Elliott Whitehead 14. Blake Austin 15. Luke Bateman 16. Dunamis Lui 17. Iosia Soliola 18. Charlie Gubb 19. Brad Abbey 20. Royce Hunt 21. Craig Garvey