Raiders half Aidan Sezer admits he lost some enjoyment in his football during his mid-year form slump and credits a renewed, simpler approach for turning both his mindset and on-field form around over the last month.
Sezer's confidence looked shot after the team's dire loss to the Cowboys in Round 17 but after the ensuing bye he sparked his team to an impressive golden point win one game later, starring with a length-of-the-field intercept try and stunning 40/20 kick against the Dragons in Round 19.
Speaking after another solid performance in his team's convincing 32-18 win over the Rabbitohs at ANZ on Saturday, Sezer admitted putting too much pressure on himself and letting his on-field struggles affect his off-field wellbeing earlier in the season before deciding to stop worrying about it and just enjoy his footy.
"Midway through the year I was a bit down and I wasn't the most positive person to be around," Sezer said.
"I guess that came with my footy as well. If you're not happy you don't play good footy, you're not going to play in a positive manner. I dropped [those concerns] and just tried to find out why I enjoy the game. That's come with more positive performances."
The Cowboys loss was the turning point, he added.
"I played one of my worst performances and after that I was like, you know what I'm just going to go back to basics and just start enjoying myself again and not put too much pressure on myself," he said.
"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."
Sezer said he and most of his teammates are unaccustomed to going into a season where they are expected to do well, though he stopped short of blaming those high expectations as a reason for the team's below-par form this year.
"For me, being a professional footballer, footy is the be-all and end-all in my life and it probably shouldn't be, you've got to find that balance but I guess I can speak for a lot of the boys playing NRL, it is the be-all and end-all," he said.
"If you're not playing well on the field it's going to transfer into life away from footy. I made a conscious effort not to give a… and just play footy.
"I probably haven't played my best [this year] and I'll put my hand up and say that but [now] I'm just playing footy, I'm not really worrying about everything that comes with it.
"[I'm] just enjoying my footy again, just finding the reason why I love the game and that's getting out every weekend and playing with my mates and enjoying passing the footy around at training."
Sezer's improved form of late has also come with a switch over to the right side of the field in both attack and defence with five-eighth Blake Austin moving to the left. It's a move both are comfortable with and looks likely to continue, according to Sezer.
"It's nothing foreign for me and Austo, we train in those positions week in week out all the way through the pre-season but now we've sort of moved defensive positions into right and left and that's probably the biggest thing," he said.