It took more than half the season for Aidan Sezer to learn how to deal with the high expectation that surrounded Canberra’s NRL hopes, but it’s a lesson he won’t have to take twice.
Sezer has snapped back to form in recent weeks, as the Raiders embark on an unlikely mission of five sudden-death games to make this year’s finals series.
Among the favourites at the start of the season, Canberra slumped to seven losses in nine games midway through the year to fall as low as 12th, their finals hopes spiralled out of control.
But it was only after that seventh loss, against North Queensland last month, that Sezer learnt the key to dealing with the expectation and eventual criticism of his game.
“I made a conscious effort not to give a s*** and just play footy,” Sezer said.
“I’m just playing footy and taking every game on its merit, not worrying about what the outside public is saying.
“I dropped everything and just tried to find out why I enjoy the game. That’s come with more positive performances.”
When Sezer says he took that approach, it’s with no disrespect to the Raiders’ jersey and what the team is trying to achieve.
In fact, it’s the exact opposite.
After the loss to the Cowboys, Sezer admitted he hit a low place and was no longer a positive influence on those around him.
And he knew something had to change.
“That came with my footy as well,” he said.
“If you’re not happy you don’t play good footy, you’re not going to play in a positive manner.
“This year’s been a big learning curve for me in how to deal with a bit of adversity and playing with a team that has high expectations.
“I can speak for most of us, we’ve never been in a position where we’ve come into a season with high expectations on us.”
Subsequently, the new mindset has worked wonders for Sezer on the field.
A golden-point 40-20 against St George Illawarra highlighted his new-found confidence and he has set up three tries in the past fortnight, and busted six tackles.
After swapping sides with five-eighth Blake Austin, the Raiders have beaten the Dragons and South Sydney, while being competitive against Melbourne.
“I’m just enjoying my footy again,” Sezer said.