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Raiders halfback Aidan Sezer

If the Canberra Raiders are to break through for their first premiership in 25 years, then halfback Aidan Sezer's continued solid form will be at the heart of it.

That's the summation of coach Ricky Stuart in his admiration for his play maker, whose resurgence this season has helped propel the Raiders into becoming one of the teams to beat.

Sezer missed time in the Telstra Premiership this season due to injury and also his battle with Sam Williams for the No.7 jersey.

Now ahead of celebrating his 150th NRL game, Stuart said Sezer's mounting confidence could be the crucial X-factor against Manly on Sunday, and heading into the finals.

"It's been difficult for Aidan because he's been in and out of the side a little bit with injury at the start of the season and to come in and find his rhythm with a new five-eighth partner and new fullback he's done a good job," Stuart said.

"He and Jack [Wighton] have combined really well and they've got good communication on the field and you can see that in the shapes they're holding.

Raiders v Sea Eagles - Round 23

"Aidan's taken a lot more control over the team in the last month and he's done a really good job at it."

Stuart also expressed his admiration for Manly coach Des Hasler ahead of their blockbuster clash at GIO Stadium, saying what Sea Eagles mentor has done for the side this year shouldn't be underestimated.

"They're a very good football team and they showed that when they beat Melbourne in Melbourne the other week," he said.

"Des has done a wonderful job with Manly this year and that's not just talking it up in the media for the sake of mind games - I know Des well.

"He's pretty similar to me. Des is very passionate about Manly and as an ex-player and he seems to have the boys playing for him at the moment."

As for speculation about his own coaching future at the Raiders and talk of a possible extension, Stuart said it's the furtherest thing from his mind with plenty of unfinished business left in 2019.

"All I want to do is prepare these guys the best I possibly can each week to play a game of football.

"I'm just concentrating on my job the best I can because I want us to win."

Hudson Young comes back onto the bench for the crucial clash with the Sea Eagles as the Raiders look to sure up a top-four finish and surge towards a home final in round one.

Young missed five games for eye-gouging, a ban that has left an indelible mark on the 21-year-old.

"It was very hard from him to sit out those five games, he's a young man who's learned a very valuable lesson," Stuart said.

"When you're playing NRL and enjoying your debut season and you make an error in judgment and get punished the way he did, it was hard for him to handle initially.

"But he put his head down on the training field and kept his fitness up and bought in with how he could help at training and he's a big part of the squad."

Raiders forward Hudson Young
Raiders forward Hudson Young ©Keegan Carroll/NRL Photos

The Raiders throughout the season have focused only on the 80 minutes ahead of them and have not dared to think about how far they can go in 2019.

But off the back of their spectacular comeback effort over Melbourne last weekend, Stuart said he can feel a groundswell of support from the Canberra region as they look to at least emulate their success of 2016 - a grand final qualifier.

"When we're thriving, it's a credit to the players," he said.

"We talk a lot about how we're a community club and we support them as much as we can behind the scenes and with what the boys do privately because we want the community to support us as they do.

"At this time of the year when we're doing well, our community appreciate us being competitive, and Canberra's a better place when we're thriving and playing good games of footy."

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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