Aidan Sezer is set to depart the NRL following Canberra’s controversial Grand Final loss, with the arrival of English international George Williams spelling the end for Sezer.
The former Gold Coast half enjoyed an up-and-down year for the Green Machine, a long stint in the Intrust Super Cup quickly erased by a string of dominant performances, including a three field-goal effort against Cronulla late in the season.
Despite leading his side their first Grand Final in over two decades, head coach Ricky Stuart appears certain to release the half following the signing of Wigan halfback, George Williams.
A sparky halfback, Williams has a pre-existing combination with back-rower John Bateman and prop Ryan Sutton from their Wigan Warriors days, whilst also playing with the likes of Elliot Whitehead, and Josh Hodgson at international level.
However, the Canberra Raiders have two problems to face if the signing of Williams is to help Canberra go that one step further in 2020.
Firstly is the fact that little to no English outside backs or halves have been able to handle the transition from the Super League to the NRL in recent years.
An increase in defensive structure means there’s less time and space for halves to create and attack, with the Super League renowned for its attack-heavy style of play.
Some of England’s finest players in recent years, including Sam Tomkins and Ryan Hall, have had next to no impact in their respective NRL stints.
Gareth Widdop is the only English half that has truly succeeded in NRL era, though instead of transition from the Super League, Widdop was brought through Melbourne’s Toyota Cup system instead.
Secondly, is the Williams gamble worth releasing Sezer over? While it may have taken him some time to get going in 2019, Sezer proved the perfect foil for newfound five-eighth Jack Wighton. The halfback’s pinpoint kicking game allowed Wighton to focus on his running game, and chime in when needed, whereas Williams is a more predominant runner of the footy.
Whilst they do have Sam Williams in reserve grade if the Englishman does struggle, losing a player the caliber of Sezer in his prime to the Super League would be a travesty not just to Canberra, but to the NRL.
A Bulldogs junior, Sezer has developed from a plucky five-eighth on the Gold Coast to a genuine match-winner at the Raiders, someone who can grab a game by the throat and control it.
While George Williams certainly deserves a crack in the NRL if he is to prove he’s truly a superstar of the game, is it worth releasing an elite level halfback over?
Time will tell.