Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart backs Aidan Sezer to return to halves soon
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Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart backs Aidan Sezer to return to halves soon

Aidan Sezer is doing a job as back-up hooker, but Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart says it won't be long before he returns to start in the halves.

Sezer was named on the bench to face the Newcastle Knights for the Raiders' first home game of the season at Canberra Stadium on Sunday, with Sam Williams and Blake Austin picked in the halves.

Ricky Stuart has backed Aidan Sezer to return to the halves soon.

Ricky Stuart has backed Aidan Sezer to return to the halves soon.Credit:Jon Kroiter

But as Tonga hooker Siliva Havili continued to find his feet at his new club, Stuart expected it would free Sezer up to return to the playmaking role he's more accustomed to.

The 26-year-old has put his hand up to help the Green Machine cover the loss of Josh Hodgson (knee) until at least June and played 50 minutes at dummy half in the narrow loss to the Gold Coast Titans last weekend.

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He made three runs for 25 metres and almost snuck a try out of dummy half in the second half, but was stopped just short of the line.

Stuart has been full of praise for the way Sezer has sacrificed his own game to help the team by moving into the middle.

But just because Sezer was doing this job now, it didn't mean he wasn't pushing Williams and Austin for their starting spots going forward.

"Aidan's in the wings now doing a job for the team, but he won't be too far away from coming into the starting team as one of the halves," Stuart said.

"So it's up to Sam and Blake to keep their position and it's great to have that competitiveness in a very important position.

"At the moment for him to do his role on the bench and be our back-up hooker, and [add] more utility for us at the moment is good for the team having that quality of player."

Havili and Craig Garvey, who played 80 minutes for the Mounties in NSW Cup and is trying to force his way into Canberra's 17, are the only two specialist hookers on the Raiders' books.

The former played 30 minutes in his Raiders debut and Stuart said his time would increase as his fitness grows and he becomes more accustomed to his role.

Stuart said all those factors could help Sezer return to his preferred role.

"We've spoken about it and of course Aidan would love to be starting, he'd love to be starting in his preferred position, but he's doing this for the sake of the team," he said.

"The way 'Liva' played last week and the more matches he'll play the more game time he'll get and he'll become more used to the players and accustomed to that position and role for us.

"It won't be forever for Aidan, but at the moment it's a wonderful commitment to his mates at the club."

Stuart was happy with how his current halves, Williams and Austin, started against the Titans.

He credited them with the Raiders flying out to an 18-0 lead after just 10 minutes in an "immaculate" first half.

Williams had two try assists, setting up Elliott Whitehead and Junior Paulo, while Austin put in fullback Jack Wighton.

Stuart said Williams and Austin complemented each other as players.

"I was very impressed with the start of our game last week. Our first 40 minutes was immaculate," he said.

"It was a very, very strong performance and that was on the back of Sam and Blake's input. They worked really well together.

"They're two very different types of players and they both actually balance the team quite well."

NRL ROUND TWO

Sunday: Canberra Raiders v Newcastle Knights at Canberra Stadium, 6.30pm. Tickets available from Ticketek.

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Raiders squad: 1. Jack Wighton, 2. Nick Cotric, 3. Jarrod Croker (C), 4. Joey Leilua, 5. Jordan Rapana, 6. Blake Austin, 7. Sam Williams, 8. Sia Soliola, 9. Siliva Havili, 10. Shannon Boyd, 11. Josh Papalii, 12. Elliott Whitehead, 13. Luke Bateman. Interchange from: 14. Aidan Sezer, 15. Junior Paulo, 16. Dunamis Lui, 17. Charlie Gubb, 18. Craig Garvey, 19. Michael Oldfield, 20. Royce Hunt, 21. Jack Murchie.

Knights squad: 1. Kalyn Ponga, 2. Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 3. Sione Mata'utia, 4. Tautau Moga, 5. Nathan Ross, 6. Connor Watson, 7. Mitchell Pearce (c), 8. Herman Ese'ese, 9. Slade Griffin, 10. Jacob Lillyman, 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 12. Aidan Guerra, 13. Mitchell Barnett. Interchange from: 14. Brock Lamb, 15. Chris Heighington, 16. Jamie Buhrer (c), 17. Daniel Saifiti, 18. Ken Sio, 19. Jacob Saifiti, 20. Daniel Levi, 21. Luke Yates.

David Polkinghorne covers the Canberra Raiders, local rugby league, Canberra Cavalry, racing and cycling, along with every other sport, for The Canberra Times.

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