13 July 2020

'I don't remember it being this bad': injury-hit Raiders prepare for grand final rematch

| Henry Jacobs
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Josh Hodgson

Raiders co-captain Josh Hodgson. Photo: Canberra Raiders.

The Canberra Raiders insist yet another injury blow won’t derail their season as they prepare for Thursday night’s grand final rematch against the Roosters at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Co-captain Josh Hodgson (ruptured ACL) and winger Bailey Simonsson (shoulder) have both been ruled out for the remainder of the season after their bruising encounter with the Storm, but for a side that’s faced their fair share of adversity it’s all par for the course.

“We’ve seen some tough times and we’ve had a lot of injuries in the past but I don’t remember it being this bad,” Raiders co-captain Jarrod Croker said.

“But look, we’re a tough club, we’re a tough team … we’ve got a short turnaround which might be a good thing after a tough loss.”

The pair join John Bateman (shoulder), Sia Soliola (facial fracture), Corey Horsburgh (foot) and Emre Guler (ankle) in the casualty ward – meaning Ricky Stuart only has 19 fit players in his squad with NRL experience.

Jordan Rapana will return to the starting side on the wing while Siliva Havili is likely to fill the vacant hooker role. The injury crisis also presents an opportunity for the club’s younger players.

“There’s kids there like Tommy Starling who are ready to go so it’s not all doom and gloom,” Croker said.

“We saw Kyle O’Donnell during the week make his debut and match it with the Melbourne Storm, so he probably didn’t expect that three or four weeks ago.”

Hodgson is no stranger to ACL injuries having damaged his opposite (left) knee while on international duty for England in 2017. He is the 12th NRL player to acquire the injury this season. Eight of those injuries came before the coronavirus-enforced shutdown.

“It’s way too many, isn’t it? There’s something obviously going on there, I don’t know what it is,” Croker said.

“I’m sure everyone is out there scratching their heads as well.”

Despite their loss on the weekend, there are plenty of positives for the Raiders to take into Thursday’s meeting with the premiers.

The Green Machine played some of their best football of the season and are hopeful of reversing the grand final result against a Roosters side which has also lost key players to injury.

“We pride ourselves on never being dead and we were that again on the weekend, but we need to start turning that into results as well,” Croker said.

“Our main reason for success last year was how much depth we’ve had.”

NRL admits bunker blunder in loss to Storm

NRL head of football Graham Annesley has admitted Raiders winger Bailey Simonsson shouldn’t have been sent to the sin-bin during the Raiders’ loss to the Storm.

With scores level in the 27th minute, Simonsson was sin-binned after tussling for a kick with Melbourne’s Josh Addo-Carr. The visitors scored a crucial try shortly after he was sent off.

Coach Ricky Stuart was heavily critical of the bunker following the game, but Croker refused to add further fire to the flames.

“It just makes it worse coming out and saying it’s wrong after it to be honest. There’s nothing we can do about it,” he said.

“I said straight after the game we didn’t have time to lick our wounds or sulk over it so I’ll let the others do that.”

Sydney Roosters v Canberra Raiders – Thursday, 16 July, 7:50 pm.

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