IF, 12 months ago, someone suggested Aidan Sezer and James Maloney would start 2020 facing each other for Huddersfield Giants and Catalans Dragons it would have been met by looks of sheer incredulty.
Yet, the two heralded Australian playmakers will line up in the south of France this evening as one of many exciting subplots of this new Super League campaign.
Thankfully, the circus that will be the arrival of another former NRL star for the French club – the controversial Israel Folau – is expected to be delayed for another week so that farce is likely to play out in Wakefield instead.
There is, however, plenty to like about today’s classy match-up as the two ‘marquee’ signings go head-to-head.
Last term, scrum-half Sezer was a major influence as Canberra Raiders reached their first Grand Final in 25 years, only losing out at the death to the peerless Sydney Roosters.
Penrith Panthers’s Maloney, meanwhile, came in from the cold to help steer New South Wales to a memorable State of Origin series win.
He could bring that team up the table a little bit. They’ve always been pretty successful and within touching distance but never really got anything apart from the Challenge Cup a couple of years ago.Aidan Sezer
At 33, he is five years older than Sezer and has also earned Test honours with the Kangaroos and also won Grand Finals with Roosters in 2013 and Cronulla Sharks three years later.
Sezer said: “Everywhere he has gone he’s had success.
“If you follow on recent form he’ll probably bring that down to Catalans and let’s just hope not in round one against us.
“He’s a really successful player and really dominant; he’s the type of bloke that Catalans need.
“He could bring that team up the table a little bit. They’ve always been pretty successful and within touching distance but never really got anything apart from the Challenge Cup a couple of years ago.
“He is a quality player and one to look out for on Saturday.”
In that sense, there are some similarities with Huddersfied who won the League Leaders’ Shield in 2013 and were often in the play-offs but have never reached a Grand Final.
Last year they diced with relegation but have the potential to do so much more, something they hope will be aided by their biggest signing in years in Sezer.
“We have a lot of ambition in the group.” he said.
“We have a lot of potential with a lot of great young players coming through at the Giants.
“Hopefully they can be better for last year’s experiences and the likes of myself and Kenny (Edwards) and James (Gavet) can bring the best out of the boys around us.”
Missing out in his maiden Grand Final back home has only made Sezer hungry to go a step further in England.
“For sure and seeing James Roby carrying the trophy around at the Super League launch it is something you want to be able to say you have done,” he added.
“There are some of us who are coming to the mature end of our careers and we want to achieve something. We do have a great balance of experience and young talent. There are positive signs and we just need to get out there in Perpignan and replicate what we have done in pre-season.”