Sezer eyes return ... as footy put into perspective

iSelect Titans five-eighth Aidan Sezer completed the team’s final training session yesterday and is set to make his return to the side for tonight’s clash with Sydney Roosters at Allianz Stadium. 

When he suffered the pectoral muscle tear in the round 10 match against the Broncos in Brisbane, the same night Will Zillman went off with a hamstring tear that sidelined him for a month, a week after Ashley Harrison suffered a broken neck against Souths, it was estimated Sezer would be sidelined for 12 to 16 weeks.

If he plays tonight it will be two days past 12 weeks which is a credit to Aidan’s diligent work and the Titans’ medical staff. It has been the most frustrating time in his career as he had had to deal with the first long-term injury since becoming an NRL player but has only grown his resolve to be a positive influence on the side.

Winger Kalifa Faifai Loa aggravated the knee injury that kept him out of last Saturday’s clash with his former club North Queensland and will miss the Roosters clash, replaced by Anthony Don who didn’t play against the Cowboys because of a bad dose of the flu.

Eighteen players travelled to Sydney, with coach John Cartwright not confirming the 17 until teams have to be posted an hour before kick-off.

 

JUST to emphasise what a community club the Titans are and the compassion of outgoing coach John Cartwright, the team had some special guests at their team dinner last night after arriving in Sydney.

Jameson Dylan died from SIDS in May weeks before his first birthday. Father Phillip is a fanatical Titans fans and had bought a Titans jersey for Dylan for his first birthday that he never had.

So keen a Titans fan is Phillip, that Jameson was buried wearing that Titans jersey and blue and yellow balloons were released at the funeral.

Dylan’s mother Jessica wrote to the Titans asking if the team would sign a jersey with Jameson’s name on it as a keepsake of his life cut too short. They live in Sydney and were hoping to get the jersey signed while the team was down this weekend.

Not only did they have the jersey signed but Carty invited them to join the team for dinner (with Jameson’s step-sister Chloe) before his last match as coach, and they had a wonderful experience with the players and coaching staff.

It firstly puts life into perspective after an eventful and emotional week for the Titans but also says a lot about the character of John Cartwright.

 

The ‘captains run’ training session at Cbus Super Stadium yesterday was sharp and full of intensity and on-field talk after captain Nate Myles addressed the side after what he thought was a below-standard session on Friday. Sezer spent some time practising his general kicking and goal-kicking and put several over from the touchline.

 

TONIGHT will be a nostalgic one for the Minichiello brothers – Roosters skipper Anthony, 34, who last week announced his retirement and Titans second-rower Mark, 32, whose future is still undecided.

It will be the 13th time the brothers have competed against each other in the NRL since their only club match as teammates in 2002, Mark’s first grade debut at age 20.

The score card in their contests is eight victories to Anthony and four to Mark but the stakes are even since Mark moved to the Titans from South Sydney in 2007, three wins a piece.

 

WHILE on brothers, Titans prop Luke Douglas headed off as soon as the team flew into Sydney yesterday to watch youngest brother Jake play for Southern Districts in the Sydney first grade (Shute Shield) preliminary final against Sydney University.

Southern Districts won on the bell, just like the NSW Waratahs a week earlier, with a penalty goal from 40m and wide out. So Jake goes into a grand final against Eastwood next weekend.

Jake will be out to emulate the third Douglas brother, Wallaby lock Jake (who could play for Southern in the grand final too), who played for the Waratahs in their Super 14 grand final victory the previous Saturday. Luke and his Titans teammates interested onlookers as they watched the second half on ‘Dougie’s’ iPad at the team hotel in Townsville after they’d returned from their clash with the Cowboys (Luke was watching from the time he showered at the 1300SMILES Stadium).

Luke yearns for the day he can share his brothers’ glory in big finals matches.

 

IT has certainly been a landmark and emotional week for coach Cartwright with the shock announcement on Tuesday that he would be moving on, along with Titans found executive director of football, Michael Searle. ‘Carty’ also had his 49h birthday on Saturday.

Cartwright is Penrith boy born and bred, and his father was long-time club boss in their pioneering years and began coaching with the Panthers lower grades after a 188-game career with the Panthers that saw him become an international player and one of the best ball-playing forwards of his era.

He gave up life driving a brewery truck and became a full-time coach at the Roosters in 2004 (after being an assistant coach at Penrith), as assistant to Ricky Stuart after being recommended by his former Panthers premiership winning coach Phil Gould, so he will be back at the club where his journey as a professional coach began when he enters Allianz Stadium tonight.

Cartwright said there will be no great nostalgia tonight but recognises that it was the Roosters who gave him his first opportunity as a ‘career coach’ and that they are a “wonderful and very professional club”. He can be guaranteed though that Roosters chairman Nick Politis, CEO Brian Canavan and assistant coach Craig Fitzgibbon, who played under Carty at the Roosters and when John assisted Stuart as NSW coach, will seek him out tonight for heartfelt wishes.

I’ve been around rugby league a long time and I have rarely seen a more respected and popular figure than John Cartwright and the way he has handled the past six days, including the media conference to announce his and Searle’s departures, showed what a class act he is. The messages of support from within and outside of the club last week were extensive and the big fella has held in the emotion incredibly in the lead-up to tonight’s game after the Titans has been his life for eight years.

Of course that is not downplaying the difficulty for Michael Searle and how he has handled a terribly emotional and sad week for him too, as the man who was the driving force behind the Titans joining the NRL and their pioneering years, a major instigator of the RL Commission and the All Stars concept, and who has a great relationship with the playing group too. It was fitting Searly travelled to Sydney for Carty’s last match in charge.