Of the hundreds of thousands of pairs of eyes which will be on Aidan Sezer on Saturday night, perhaps the most interested will be Laurie Daley.
Not just because Sezer will be running onto AAMI Park for Canberra’s NRL preliminary final in the lime green jumper Daley helped make famous, but because he’ll possibly be sizing him up for a blue one as well.
The Raiders’ clash with Melbourne for a spot in the grand final isn’t just another important chapter in Canberra’s feel-good story – it also shapes as a defining moment in Sezer’s career.
After seeing the writing on the wall at Gold Coast following the Titans’ (ultimately ill-fated) decision to chase Daly Cherry-Evans, Sezer moved to the nation’s capital and, within 12 months, has been a driving force in their run to within touching distance of the Provan-Summons trophy.
Earlier in the year, eighth Immortal Andrew Johns hailed Sezer and Raiders playmaking partner Blake Austin as his picks for the NSW State of Origin halves’ combination.
NSW coach Daley however argued that the pair, neither of whom had played finals before this year, were too inexperienced for the Origin arena at that stage of their careers and wanted to see them get some big-game experience under their belt.
So, having been told by Daley what’s standing between Sezer and a coveted sky blue jumper, the Raiders’ No.7 gets his chance.
“He’s got a right to say that – he’s the coach of NSW. It’s been good, I’ve got a bit of experience in the finals now,” Sezer told AAP.
“I’ve think I’ve played enough first grade for people to know what I can do. I think the self-satisfaction that I’ve put in a good performance for the boys who I train beside, that’s probably the biggest thing, not to prove anything to anyone else.”
His maiden season under Ricky Stuart hasn’t been without its ups and downs – he copped a fractured eye socket in his side’s first-round match with Penrith and missed four games after undergoing surgery.
At the time, he refused to leave the field, believing he was right to go on despite suffering limited vision. He even asked the trainer to cut his eye – like Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky character – so he could regain full vision.
It was that act of stoicism that set the tempo for the Raiders’ season and why he’s so highly regarded in the dressing room.
“It was swelled up and I couldn’t see out of it,” Sezer said.
“But we’re paid to do this job and I’d probably have to break my leg before I’d let the guys take me off.”