Sezer's pain at 'sliding doors' season
What if Aidan Sezer hadn't got injured?
What if instead of hanging his arm out in an attempted tackle on Brisbane's Ben Hunt in the 30th minute of their Round 10 clash and having his right pectoral muscle torn from his chest, Sezer made that tackle and finished the game?
In 12 rounds without their chief playmaker the Gold Coast Titans nose-dived from seventh on the ladder to 13th and now, for the second week in succession, face a team in the Warriors who are desperately clinging to the spot in the top eight that earlier in the season Titans fans thought would be theirs.
The Titans are one of nine teams in the 2014 Telstra Premiership to have compiled a run of success of six wins over an eight-week period but since the loss of Sezer in Round 10 they have capitulated to compile a dismal two wins from 12 games and face the prospect of finishing above perhaps only two teams if results in the final fortnight don't go their way.
Such is his influence on the Titans' fortunes Sezer has still kicked on more occasions than any other Titan this season and his goal-kicking percentage of 92 per cent has frittered away to just 68 per cent in his absence. For a team that has lost three games by six points or less during that period, it can be the difference between finals footy and Mai Tais in Bali.
But did it have to be this way? If not for one incongruous moment would the Titans be eyeing off a first finals appearance in four years? Would their trip to Auckland this week have had far-reaching ramifications for both teams' top eight chances? Would John Cartwright still have a job?
They're the impossible questions that will neither be answered nor remembered but for a bloke who had to watch a season slip away over the course of three months completely helplessly, they will linger until the first pre-season session of 2015.
"Looking back on it now, it was pretty mentally fatiguing," says Sezer after a wind-blown training session that should hold the Titans in good stead for what awaits them at Mt Smart on Sunday. "Sitting on the sideline for 12 weeks and obviously seeing our position on the ladder dwindle week by week was disappointing but it's good to be back out on the field now. Even though we're not getting the results it's just good to be back playing footy.
"You obviously do [think you could have made a difference] but the boys that were there were doing a good job and it was just unfortunate that we couldn't get the results and I think coming back into the team you can just see the hurt in the boys' faces.
"We had a very positive start to the season, we won six of our first eight I think, and we were going good. There were no injuries and then it sort of hit us all at once. A few boys went down and the boys that were there were hurting immensely just seeing the position on the ladder go down and I just think the pain of missing the finals again is something that's going to drive us.
"With the boys leaving too, it's disappointing for them. Obviously we've got club legends like Mini, Bails and Harro and it's just disappointing not to see them out on a good note playing finals footy because we think that's where this squad should be.
"With all hands on deck we've got the potential to beat any team and I guess that first eight weeks of the season put that into context."
Since making his return in Round 22 Sezer has been a part of Titans teams that have suffered losses to the Roosters, Sea Eagles and Dragons as he endeavours to form a new combination with mid-season signing Daniel Mortimer.
It's a combination with more structure than that with the flamboyant Albert Kelly that worked so well earlier in the season but Sezer insists the change in halfback has not had an influence on his style of play.
"They're obviously different players. 'Mortsy' is a more organisational style of player where Alby is more off the cuff. They bring two different aspects to the team but I enjoy playing with both of them," Sezer said.
"It's only my third game back so me and Mortsy, that combination is still pretty fresh and over the next two games we've got to just try and improve and finish the season on a high. With the season we've had we want to go out on a positive."