15th July 2020, 10:17 | nrl
Canberra Raiders players believe they can overcome the loss of England hooker Josh Hodgson and better last year’s controversial grand final loss to Sydney Roosters.
The Raiders travel to the Sydney Cricket Ground on Thursday to take on the Roosters in the first clash between the two clubs since Trent Robinson’s men triumphed 14-8 in last year’s premiership decider and the Green Machine are below strength due a crippling injury toll.
Hodgson joined fellow England Test star John Bateman (shoulder), former St Helens prop Sia Soliola (facial fracture) and forwards Corey Horsburgh (foot) and Emre Guler (ankle) on Canberra’s long term casualty list when he ruptured his ACL during last weekend’s loss to Melbourne Storm.
Winger Bailey Simonsson was also ruled out for the season after sustaining a shoulder injury in the same match.
“Obviously it does hurt our chances. Hodgo gave us a lot of good direction and he was one of our key players,” Raiders five-eighth Jack Wighton said. “But the show has to go on so we will stay positive and rip in week in and week out and see how far we can take it.
“I don’t think it will take too much to lift our spirits to try and rip into the Roosters. We know what we are in for and we know what we are going there for.”
Wighton, the Clive Churchill Medal winner, and most of his Canberra team-mates have not watched a replay of the game, which was marred by controversy after referee Ben Cummins signalled six-again call when the Raiders were on the attack and then changed his mind.
Just 10 members of the Canberra team named by Ricky Stuart played in the grand final and Wighton said his combination with English halfback George Williams was improving with each match.
“It is just going to take a little bit of time, we just need to get some minutes under our belt playing together,” he said. “It is just about getting minutes together and learning how each other plays.”
England winger Ryan Hall is on standby for Roosters international Brett Morris, who injured his groin during the warm-up before last week’s match against North Queensland.
Hall played in place of injured Tonga winger Daniel Tupou but rookie Matt Ikuvalu received a late call-up when Morris was ruled out and has retained his place after scoring five tries in the 42-16 win.
Melbourne host Gold Coast Titans at Sunshine Coast Stadium on Friday, with both teams coming off wins after the Titans beat the Warriors, while the Brisbane Broncos travel to Sydney to take on Wests Tigers buoyed by their first triumph since the resumption of the NRL competition on May 28.
Tigers coach Michael Maguire has paired Billy Walters, the son of Queensland coach and former Catalans mentor Kevin Walters, in the halves with Benji Marshall.
Brisbane’s 26-8 defeat of Canterbury led to the departure of Bulldogs coach Dean Pay, who had just one match with England prop Luke Thompson in his squad.
Steve Georgallis, who steered Greece to a place in the final 16 of next year’s Rugby League World Cup in England, will take charge of Canterbury for Saturday’s match against St George Illawarra after being appointed as interim coach, with former Wigan playmaker Trent Barrett favourite for the job.
South Sydney coach Wayne Bennett has been in a good mood ahead of Saturday’s clash with Newcastle after a gritty 18-10 defeat of Wests Tigers last weekend, which was followed by England prop Tom Burgess presenting him with a gift on behalf of the team in the dressing room.
“It was a bit of joke,” Burgess said. “We bought some ‘happy’ socks for him, just in case he wasn’t happy this week. He can look a bit grumpy so we wanted to make sure. It was Sam’s doing, I just partook in the giving.”
Asked if the gift had the desired effect, Burgess said: “I hope so. He’s had them on training and he seemed to be happy”.
The injury hit Manly Sea Eagles play competition leaders Parramatta on Saturday, while the New Zealand Warriors take on the Cronulla Sharks on Sunday before Round 10 concludes with the second-placed Penrith Panthers hosting the Cowboys.