The 2018 season is a make-or-break season for Canberra Raiders halfback Aiden Sezer.
With Canberra’s extremely disappointing 2017, fingers have been pointing to Sezer’s inability to control tight games from halfback as the main reason for the team not reaching the potential of season expectations.
To make him as the scapegoat is an unfair assessment of the Raiders season. It is harsh criticism of a player in a team that as individuals all failed to reach personal performance targets. However, if Sezer were to rate his own personal performance he wouldn’t rate it too highly. With the offseason additions of Sam Williams and Ata Hingano, the signs are there that confidence from coach Ricky Stuart has started to wane.
Stuart himself must be under extreme pressure, another season of underachieving may be enough for the Canberra board to look for alternative coaching options.
For Sezer, 26, his need to set Canberra back onto the projected path of previous seasons is made all the harder for not having Josh Hodgson at hooker guiding the team. Hodgson will be out for a good portion of the season with an injury sustained in the World Cup. Stuart has brought in Craig Garvey and Sam Havili to cover the loss of Hodgson good players but not in the class of the English hooker.
Sezer also needs support from his halves partner Blake Austin who had a very disappointing 2017. If the Raiders get off to a slow start, I don’t think coach Stuart will show the same faith in his players as he did last year and heads will roll or players moving to other positions to accommodate.
The question to many is Sezer a good enough half back to take the Raiders to a Premiership? The answer will lay with the players he has around him doing their roles effectively to allow him to perform to his best. The Raiders have a huge pack which on song can be the most brutal and effective in the competition and a backline with the likes of Rapana, Wighton and Cotric with the individual brilliance to turn games.
They also have players that give away easy penalties and throw away possession with one too many attempted miracle pass. If they do not improve their discipline what Sezer does will have no bearing at all. This is the same team that last year was tipped by many to win the Premiership and ended finishing 10th. So with no real major offseason signings, the concern is that Canberra will dish out the same mediocre performance as last season.
Without Hodgson, Canberra will be again without his creative work out of dummy half meaning Sezer and Austin need to be at their very best and Jack Wighton will need to do more from fullback. In Canberra’s favour is the draw (Titans, Knights, Warriors) in the first three rounds if they can start the season well by beating those teams as expected they may gain some momentum and confidence back allowing Sezer to keep Higano or Williams at bay.
If they trip up and lose their opening games, coach Stuart will make changes. Sezer may find himself at hooker, on the bench, in the NSW Cup or shopped around to another clubs. The Canberra fans will not accept another unfulfilled season. They will voice their opinions and even favourite sons will not be safe. To fall from a Premiership favourite in 2017 to also-ran in 2018 will not be accepted.
Given the move to add Higano on the eve of the Premiership kick-off, it would seem Stuart is worried about his halves and Hodgson’s long term absence. Either way Sezer will be at the centre of his concerns. Aiden Sezer is a good enough player to hold off the competition for the No. 7 jersey and guide the Raiders to success in 2018 if he gets the support from his team mates.
If everyone does there job, if they curtail penalties and errors, Canberra has the potential to be as dangerous a team as they were in 2016. If they can ride the momentum of early round wins and get themselves into semi Final contention the return of Josh Hodgson could make them a team to challenge.
Unfortunately For Raiders fans while your team was sleeping in 2107, other teams have built better squads with better depth and better match winners. So in 2018 It looks like another unsatisfactory year for the green machine. Early days but I think the writing is on the wall. By the seasons end one or both Sezer and Stuart will gone from the Raiders.
What do you think will it be: Hail Sezer or see ya?