Canberra Raiders halfback Aidan Sezer is determined to play a more dominant hand as he prepares to harness control of an outfit reshaping its audacious attacking philosophy.
Raiders skipper Jarrod Croker says Jack Wighton's shift into five-eighth has seen Sezer take more ownership of the side alongside hooker and co-captain Josh Hodgson.
Wighton's move is part of Canberra's plan to stiffen up the defensive line with his first audition coming in the Raiders' trial match against the Canterbury Bulldogs at Bega Recreational Ground on Saturday.
Taking a fullback into the halves has left Sezer with more responsibility to steer the ship for an evolving side determined to make defence their trump card despite being one of the league's highest scoring teams in recent years.
"Seze has really stepped it up a notch this year, he knows he is the halfback of the side and he has got to lead the side around with Hodgo," Croker said.
"It’ll really free Jack up, Aidan will control a lot of it, Jack is a very strong runner and a powerful defender. It’s been really good at training, it’ll be good to see the combination there on Saturday night.
"I’m looking forward to seeing how Jacko goes, he’s had a really big pre-season, done a lot of work, and I’m sure he is in for a big year.
"Anyone who has seen Jacko tackle, he’s a pretty solid defender and he is going to defend that front line really well. I’m excited to have him in the defensive line.
"We knew we had to be at our best as a defensive side if we want to go anywhere, and defence has been our main focus for this whole pre-season. Putting him in that front-line really stiffens it up."
Croker has had all guns blazing at Raiders headquarters since returning to pre-season training after the Christmas break, adamant his knee worries are behind him.
The 28-year-old has been out of action since dislocating his knee in round 18 last year when he dropped like he had been snipered from the top of the Mal Meninga Grandstand.
A return to the fold has Croker preparing to share the captaincy role with English rake Hodgson, who ascended to the role in December when coach Ricky Stuart opted to split the load.
Stuart says the move is designed to lift the focus on leadership within his playing squad, and he might not have found a better mix than a cool cat from Goulburn and a rugged Hull native.
"We’re a little bit different to be honest and that is probably a good thing," Croker said.
"Hodgo is really passionate, he wears his heart on his sleeve, and really has that aggressive win-all attitude. I guess I’m a bit more calm and laid back. On the edge I don’t have to do as much physical contact as the boys in the middle. I get a good overview from the outside looking in.
"The game is high intensity but I get to sit back and take it all in, and vice versa, we can feed off the back of each other. We’re opposite, but I reckon it’ll work for us."
Joey Leilua (hamstring), John Bateman (side strain) and Michael Oldfield (groin) will miss the Bulldogs trial but are expected to return to the fold for round one.
Shoulder injuries to Jordan Rapana and Ata Hingano will keep the pair sidelined indefinitely, however Hingano is easing his way into full squad training with a return date to be assessed over the coming weeks.
Rapana remains on the comeback trial from surgery with the club still considering taking advantage of salary cap relief with the New Zealand international not due back until about round 13.