Sticky’s ‘lost faith’: Ikin bemused by Raiders’ halves woes
FORMER Test and Origin half Ben Ikin says Canberra's poor start to the season can be traced back to Josh Hodgson's injury, but the host of NRL360 is baffled by Ricky Stuart's indecision around his first-choice spine.
After two seasons together as the Raiders' starting halves, Aidan Sezer and Blake Austin seem to have lost Stuart's trust, with the pair split up - one starting alongside Sam Williams and the other on the bench - in all three of the side's losses.
While the club is desperately searching for its first win of the season, Stuart clearly doesn't see the halves who piloted Canberra to a preliminary final in 2016 as the answer, with Austin left out of the 17 altogether for Saturday's trip to Manly.
While neither Austin or Sezer has set the world on fire to start the season, Ikin puts that down to confusion over their roles and a lack of confidence in them from their coach.
"Having a chat with Josh Reynolds about his situation last year, he was in a group of players who got moved around," Ikin told foxsports.com.au.
"The uncertainty around what your role is and whether or not you're playing the same position the following week, I don't think is conducive to best football.
"I reckon that's contributing to what we're seeing in Aidan Sezer and Blake Austin.
"They've given us the evidence that they can be a solid combination. We've seen it, so it's not a talent issue, it's not a combination issue.
"Sure they've had some gaps, even when they've been at their best, but their best is still pretty good.
"Something's going on down there, and on that list is the absence of Josh Hodgson, that can't be underscored."
While Ikin has been unimpressed by what he's seen from the Raiders this year, he still thinks there's enough talent in the roster to turn things around if they can find some confidence.
He says a return to winning ways could be triggered by going back to the formula that served them so well in 2016, although he conceded Stuart might have already decided to move on from the Sezer-Austin combination.
"I still believe Sezer and Austin are the best halves option for the Raiders, remembering they did take the Raiders to a prelim two years ago," Ikin said.
"It would seem that Ricky Stuart might have lost faith in the Sezer-Austin combination, and if that's true they'd certainly be feeling it because as we've seen from Ricky in his post-match press conferences, whatever Ricky's thinking and feeling he struggles to hide.
"The unfortunate thing is, teams never play their best football when you have multiple players feeling uncertain about their role and their future."