Raiders won’t rush back star halves

Canberra will be without their first-choice NRL halves for at least another fortnight, with coach Ricky Stuart keen to hold back the star pair until they’re fully fit.

Aidan Sezer (eye socket) and Blake Austin (knee) had originally been slated for a round five return, a month after suffering their injuries in the Raiders’ season-opening win over Penrith.

But with the Raiders one of only two unbeaten teams – along with Melbourne – after the opening four rounds of the season, Stuart said he would not be taking any risks by rushing back the duo.

“They’re both pretty serious injuries so I don’t want them back – whether it’s round seven or even eight – until they’re 100 per cent,” he said on Thursday.

“We’ll just keep battling through the way we are the moment, but it’s more important for me to have them back at 100 per cent than playing at 90-95 per cent. It’s too early in the season.

“I’d rather wait another week or two before I get them back if that’s the case.”

Sezer only returned to full running on Thursday, while Austin has completed two sessions of straight-line running.

While it was a no-brainer for Stuart to slide in Sam Williams at halfback, he’s tried a few different options in the No.6 jumper.

Rookie Lachlan Croker was handed his debut at five-eighth against the Sydney Roosters, only to be replaced by hooker Josh Hodgson in the second half after going down with a shoulder injury.

England international Elliott Whitehead was shifted from the back-row into the halves for last week’s 24-24 draw with Newcastle, and will retain his spot against Gold Coast at GIO Stadium on Saturday.

“We’re playing with one half,” said Stuart.

“Elliott’s such a skilful player, he’s just a wonderful player and to be able to come in and fill in at five-eighth is a credit to his talent.

“But he’s not a natural five-eighth, he’s not a natural half, so that puts a little bit of a change in our style of game.”

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