Titans wary of Canberra's English stars
One is a surprise leader of the Dally M Medal and the other came to Canberra via Catalans and if the Raiders are to get through the first month undefeated Josh Hodgson and Elliot Whitehead will once again need to be prominent.
A team many predicted would surge up the ladder this season, the Raiders were rocked in Round 1 when both Blake Austin and Aidan Sezer suffered injuries that would require an extended stint on the sidelines but in their absence a couple of creative types from the Mother Country have filled the void superbly.
In his second season in the NRL England Test hooker Josh Hodgson has polled eight Dally M points from a possible nine and has been rotating between his duties in the No.9 with some playmaking responsibility in the halves.
Hodgson was the only player through three rounds with two 40/20 kicks and has played every minute of the season to date, Titans coach Neil Henry is well aware of the threat he poses in conjunction with Canberra's big forward pack at GIO Stadium on Saturday.
"[Paul] Vaughan and [Shannon] Boyd and [Jeff] Lima and [Frank-Paul] Nuuausala and [Sia] Soliola, they've all got a good carry on them, Papalii on an edge, so there's a lot of go forward and on the back of that he does play forward really well," Henry said of Hodgson.
"He's shown his versatility, he's been able to jump into the half position, he's got a bit of skill about what he does and he's not afraid to run the ball.
"They're dangerous close to the line, they'll be nice and direct and we'll certainly need to be a bit better defensively than we were last week."
Whitehead came to the Raiders as something of an unknown but with a resume that included stints or Bradford and Catalans, five Test matches for England and selection in the 2014 Super League Dream Team.
A skilful back-rower with a high workrate and penchant for planting the Steeden beyond the tryline, Whitehead will start the game against the Titans at five-eighth. He is perhaps the only player in the competition averaging 40 tackles per game to go with two line-break assists and two try assists and has clearly adapted quickly to the demands of the NRL.
"I know he's a ball-playing edge back-rower and he's got a bit of skill," said Henry of his Whitehead education.
"He's been able to adapt to playing out in the halves a little bit, then he swaps into the back row so he's another Englishman who has come out and seems to be handling the NRL straight away."
Given the loss of Austin and Sezer the contribution from the Pommy pair has helped to take some of the heat off Sam Williams, the only recognised half in the Raiders' 17 again on Saturday.
The hero with a match-winning field goal against the Roosters in Round 2, Williams has not been able to lock down a regular starting spot in his two stints at the Raiders and at St George Illawarra and Henry said he will be a prime target for his wide-running back-rowers.
"Playing in the halves, he's going to get a bit of running there anyway. Chris McQueen will like to get at him a few times," said Henry a former Raiders coach between 2007-2008 who has had four wins in 10 previous games against Ricky Stuart-coached teams.
"Hodgson is a point of difference with the kicks as well, he had a couple of nice kicks for 40/20s but Sam is an experienced player and has a nice kicking game so I expect him to be the main kicker."