Sezer backs halves to step up
Potential suitors are lining up but the Canberra Raiders halfback Aidan Sezer is very happy in the national capital.
Yes, he has an affection and past affiliation with the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs and the Gold Coast Titans. But no, he's not entertaining changing colours from the Green Machine.
"It's definitely my first choice to stay here," Sezer told NRL.com.
"Last year was tough but the enjoyment I get being around this group of boys is only going to continue to be beneficial.
"I've had two years at the club now and I really feel like I'm finding my feet. This pre-season is about taking on the role that I want."
More on that in a minute. But first, what's the reaction to his name being linked to those two specific clubs? He is an East Hills Bulldogs junior, worked his way through the grades at Belmore, but made his NRL debut with the Titans in 2012 and played 71 games there.
"All that stuff is hypotheticals," Sezer said. "I've got a pretty open relationship with the boys and with Stick (coach Ricky Stuart). That's where it is at the moment.
"I'm sure my manager is working with the club to hopefully get something done. You always want to be settled. You don't want to keep going around the clubs. It's up to my manager but he knows how I feel.
"I'll just concentrate on really getting myself into good nick and playing some good footy. Ultimately that helps the situation too."
More immediate on Sezer's mind is helping drag the Raiders from a 10th-placed finish in 2017 back to the heights of reaching the grand final qualifier of 2016.
A noted left-foot kicker, Sezer is in the top 12 for NRL halves in terms of the number of times he kicks or passes at various stages of games. But he and five-eighth Blake Austin are well outside the top 10 when it comes to line-break assists – one of the best measures of effective halves.
"If you look at areas around the fundamental things, there will always be a correlation with our stats and us being halves. If your team is not completing (sets) then the halves don't always have a say," Sezer said.
"But there are situations where Blake and I can be better and we're well aware of that. We are working hard to amend fundamental errors in our games. That goes for the team as well."
When not sweating it out in gruelling pre-season drills at the Raiders' Bruce training headquarters, Sezer and Austin are talking through how they want to change things around.
"Me and Blake get on very well and we're pretty good mates off the field as well. We speak a lot," Sezer said.
"When I first came here he was coming off a great year where his running game was at the forefront of it. That's what people know him for.
"But I think we've gone away from that the last couple of years. We've played a bit of left and right and we've been two organisers.
"Hopefully this year I can take over that dominant organising role and give him free reign to run all over the park because that's when he's at his best. That's going to be beneficial for the team if he's running the ball."
Austin was definitely more free range in 2015, the year before Sezer arrived, scoring 14 tries. But then things dropped off a little with eight tries in 2016 and seven in 2017.
Sezer wants to reassert the type of authority he showed at the Titans, albeit within the Raiders environment.
"It's definitely a different role down here and it's taken me longer than anticipated to adjust," he said.
"I really feel like I've done that now… in being more dominant. At the Titans it was musical chairs for my halves partner (Albert Kelly, Scott Prince, Kane Elgey, Daniel Mortimer). I didn't get that stability, so more often than not I was the dominant half.
"But coming here we had a great team with a quality hooker (Josh Hodgson) and a quality five-eighth (Austin) beside me. People looking in probably say I need to be more dominant.
"I'm well aware of that. But it's hard when you've got other quality players in the team. So you're trying to find where you fit in, and how to complement their games as well.
"That's probably the biggest thing for me… trying to find my spot in the team and the best way to fit in. But I love being in this team and I want to get the best out of the boys as well as myself."
Working against that will be the fact Hodgson is not the No.9 for the first five months of the season. In comes Craig Garvey or Siliva Havili as replacement hooker.
"They're hungry first and foremost," Sezer said. "They've been around the game long enough to know how we want to do things here.
Stuart concedes Hodgson is huge loss
"But they're not going to be as dominant as Hodgo. He's 29; a very seasoned player; an international player.
"So it will be harder for these two younger ones. They will do their job first and foremost – make their tackles and give good service. They do that and they won't be letting anyone down.
"They're training really well but it's Sticky's decision ultimately who he wants in there," he added, dodging the question on who he wanted to work with.
"I like both of them as they've shown nothing but good attitude since they arrived. We'll see where that leads us."