When it was revealed in July 2021 that Aidan Sezer would be a Rhinos player from 2022, the fanbase was audibly excited, and understandably so. Sezer had consistently been one of the best halves in the competition over in Huddersfield, and many saw him as the key to the Rhinos kicking on in 2022.
But the Sezer of the prior two years isn’t the one the Rhinos have received.
We’ve got a player who has shown glimpses of his class, but has yet to hit the heights many expected. The question big being… Why?
The story so far
The first thing the discussion has to gravitate towards is the injuries. Sezer has only featured in eight of the seventeen Super League games this season, which creates the argument based on the fullness of your glass – has he failed to hit his stride due to the injury, and subsequently deserves the benefit of the doubt, or is he too injury prone to be classed as anything but a marquee liability?
I lean towards the former – simply because we all know how good he can be. There’s just too much class there to cast him aside.
As with numerous players this season, Sezer’s season has been one of nearlies – with numerous grubbers and bomb kicks that came up just a bit long or a bit short. There have been those moments in which he’s played his best, and the kicks have been perfectly weighted and the passes perfectly timed. Unsurprisingly, his best performances coincide with some of the Rhinos best performances. At his best, he drives the team and commands the field.
And, although Leeds have found ways to win even when Sezer’s been below par, it’s not a sustainable model. When the man who is arguably the best player in the team, and playing in a cornerstone position, doesn’t deliver, the team can only carry on for so long.
There’s two people, other than himself, who can make Aidan Sezer’s Rhinos journey a success – Rohan Smith and Blake Austin.
Smith coming in as head coach is a big step forward for the team. Previous coach Richard Agar was able to find consistency for the team, but very few players found the consistency on an individual level for a sustained period. Sezer will likely work closely with the new boss to develop his game to a style that fits in with the team and the brand of rugby Rohan wants the Rhinos to play, which can only be a good thing!
Look at what Ian Watson has achieved so far with Huddersfield and over his time at Salford – he’s a brilliant man manager who gets the best out of his players. Agar got a decent level out of the team, but eventually that dropped to the point of him needing to depart.
Smith needs to replicate what Watson did with Sezer at the Giants. If he can tap into the player Watson found, as opposed to the one Agar couldn’t, we could have the Sezer we signed, rather than the one we’ve been willing to shine thus far.
The other catalyst to any success will be Blake Austin. Another off-season signing, Austin came in with a similar pedigree of having impressed elsewhere in Super League and facing the challenge of leading his new team back up the standings. I think you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better half-back partnership on paper in the whole league. Austin has started to settle after a slow start and is starting to become more like the player we hoped to see.
But the key to a successful partnership between the 6 and 7 isn’t just their individual ability. It’s the instinctive knowledge of how to manage a game, to collectively make the game tick. Two halves on the same wavelength are the key to the success of any team, so Sezer and Austin forming a strong partnership and soon will be vital to the success this team should be fighting for.
This is all the more frustrating from the fan’s perspective due to, ahead of the season’s start, the pair doing interviews to Sky Sports about rekindling their partnership from several successful years at Canberra Raiders in the NRL. We know they can do it. Rohan knows they can do it. Together, they need to remember how to do it and apply it in Super League.
Simply put, I have faith Sezer will come good. As with everything, there’s so many variables as to right or wrong, but I believe Smith to be a top-class man manager, and Austin and Sezer to be two top halves who need to re-find the wavelength to become the dynamic duo we know they can be. Sezer is simply too good of a player to go down as a waste of money. He will come good.