It’s the most high-profile ankle in the NRL as the Canberra Raiders refuse to give up on their star hooker Josh Hodgson, reiterating they will name the Dally M contender on Tuesday for the massive clash against the Penrith Panthers.
Hodgson took part in the Raiders’ recovery session on Monday and Canberra winger Edrick Lee said the fact the England international was already walking was a “good sign”.
Raiders coach Ricky Stuart said after the heart-breaking qualifying final loss to the Cronulla Sharks he would name the 26-year-old, but word came out on Sunday he had torn a ligament and was only a chance for the preliminary final.
But Lee revealed signs were good for Hodgson, which would also be a massive boost for the Raiders in their do-or-die semi-final against the Panthers at Canberra Stadium on Saturday night.
He rolled the ankle just after half-time in the Raiders’ 16-14 loss to the Sharks, when his leg tangled with teammate Aidan Sezer.
Hodgson is one of the best hookers in the NRL and Immortal Andrew Johns has tipped him to win the Dally M Medal.
Johns didn’t think the Raiders could win without him, such was his importance.
Lee said the Raiders had several options to cover Hodgson if he doesn’t recover in time.
With Blake Austin expected to return from a broken hand this week that could free up Sam Williams to shift to the unusual role at dummy-half.
“I’m not too sure where Hodgo is at. I’ve seen him walking around, which is a good sign,” Lee said.
“I guess he’ll get addressed during the week to see where he’s at, but if he’s unfortunate not to make it I’m sure the coaches have options in Adam Clydsdale or there could be a reshuffle somewhere.
“I thought it was his knee to be honest, I didn’t think it was his ankle, but to find out it was his ankle I guess it’s a good sign to see him walking around.”
Raiders prop Shannon Boyd said if Hodgson was unable to play the Panthers then it would provide extra motivation for them to win through to the preliminary final, where they would face the Melbourne Storm in Melbourne, to ensure his season wasn’t over.
“Definitely, Hodgo’s a big part of the team and is a good leader so the boys will rip in for him if he doesn’t play,” Boyd said.
Boyd’s fellow front-rower Junior Paulo said they would train this week as if Hodgson was playing.
Paulo said any lingering disappointment in the group had already turned to excitement about playing in another final this weekend.
He said the Panthers clash was their “last chance” and they had learnt a lot from what was an NRL finals debut for two-thirds of the team.
Paulo was relishing another Viking clap, which gave him “goose bumps” when almost 26,000 people did it before the Sharks game.
“Not too sure how [Hodgson’s] training at the moment, but we’re looking forward to getting him in the team this week,” he said.
“I haven’t seen him today, but I’m sure he’ll be working hard in rehab and working as hard as he can to get back on the field this week.
“We’re a tight-knit group here so whoever does fill in the gap if he’s missing out then I’m sure they’ll do the right job. But for now we’re training as if Hodgo will be there and he’s packing in at hooker for us.”
Ticket were selling slower than last week, but more than 8000 had already been sold on Monday.
Given members were only able to buy six this week, instead of the 10 they get for the qualifying final, the Raiders were expecting sales to pick up once they go on sale to the general public on Tuesday at 10am.
Saturday: Canberra Raiders v Penrith Panthers at Canberra Stadium, 7.45pm. Tickets available at Ticketek.