Rugby League

Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart won't rush Blake Austin, Aidan Sezer back early

The Canberra Raiders will continue to soldier on without injured halves Blake Austin and Aidan Sezer for at least another two weeks.

Raiders coach Ricky Stuart ruled out rushing his star duo back before they were ready, leaving Sam Williams to run the show for Saturday's round four clash with the Gold Coast Titans at Canberra Stadium.

Injured Raiders five-eighth Blake Austin has his right knee strapped during a training session on Tuesday.
Injured Raiders five-eighth Blake Austin has his right knee strapped during a training session on Tuesday. Photo: Graham Tidy

Stuart said that Austin (knee) and Sezer (cheekbone) could be expected back as early as the Raiders' round six game against the Eels at Parramatta Stadium.

But he also said he would take a wait and see approach with both players and would be willing to give them as much time as possible to get back to full fitness.

"I'm hoping round six, seven, to be realistic," Stuart said.

"They were both pretty serious injuries ... if it's round seven, round eight, I don't want them back until they are 100 per cent.

"We'll just keep battling through the way we are at the moment.

"It's more important for me to have them back at 100 per cent than coming back and playing at 90, 95 per cent.

Aidan Sezer has been named at halfback.
Aidan Sezer has been named at halfback. Photo: Graham Tidy

"It's too early in the season. I'd rather wait another week or two to get them back if that's the case."



Austin and Sezer have returned to a modified training schedule with the rest of the squad.

"They're not training fully with the group, they're just doing their rehab running," Stuart said.

"Aidan has only just started to run and he hasn't been doing much of that.

"I think today [Thursday] is the first day where he can have much of a run, which is good for him, because he's still pretty sore.

"[Blake] has two sessions of just straight-line running."

The Raiders are unbeaten through their opening three games with victories over the Panthers and Roosters before last weekend's 24-all draw with the Newcastle Knights.

This is the first time the Raiders have named an unchanged team this season.

They take on a Titans side that has also started strongly with two wins from their first three games, their only loss coming against the Melbourne Storm.

"I thought [the Titans] were very good against Melbourne as well and they're probably playing better than us," Stuart said.

"We're not playing well, but we're hanging in there, so we're scraping through at the moment.

"We're not playing for 80 minutes and we don't have a lot of continuity in our attack, so we're probably winning some games on a little bit of character.

"But that doesn't get you through every game, we've got to start playing a little bit of quality football."

In the absence of Austin and Sezer, halfback Sam Williams is playing on both sides of the field in attack with second-rower Elliott Whitehead filling in at five-eighth.

"We're playing with one half," Stuart said.

"Elliott is such a skilful football player, he's such a wonderful player, to be able to fill in at five-eighth is a credit to his talent, but he's not a natural five-eighth.

"That puts a little bit of a change in our style of game, but we need to play a little bit more of an 80-minute style of game rather than playing for a half and then putting ourselves into a dangerous spot of not completing and not having enough possession."

The Raiders will have centre Joey Leilua available for their round five game against the Bulldogs after having his contrary conduct charge thrown out at the judiciary on Wednesday night.

Leilua was found not guilty after lashing out at Roosters prop Dylan Napa after copping a high tackle.

NRL - ROUND 4

Saturday: Canberra Raiders v Gold Coast Titans, at Canberra Stadium, 5.30pm. Tickets from TicketekTV: Live on Fox Sports 1.