Canberra Raiders hooker Josh Hodgson's well-documented ankle woes were the least of his worries in the 24 hours leading up to Canberra's 22-12 win over the Penrith Panthers at GIO Stadium on Saturday night.
Canberra coach Ricky Stuart revealed in the aftermath of his side's 10-point win that Hodgson also had to overcome a stomach bug before the biggest game of his NRL career.
In a preparation and performance similar to Cowboys co-captain Johnathan Thurston on Friday night, Hodgson's efforts left Stuart to offer him the ultimate compliment.
"It's what the team is about. It's what our club is about now – what he's got through this week," Stuart said.
"I'm in a really privileged position to be his coach.
"He is a tough Pom. There's no two ways about it," he added.
"Getting over the ankle was one thing but he had been in bed all day. He's had a bad week."
After confirming his fitness at Friday's Captain's Run, Hodgson said the virus hit him straight after the Raiders' final training run.
The 26-year-old also confirmed his damaged ankle ligaments pulled up fine following his 34-tackle effort against the Panthers.
"It felt good at the Captain's Run and that's when the decision was made. It was touch-and-go still on Wednesday," Hodgson said.
"The swelling had gone down a fair bit and we didn't really get on top of that until Thursday. I had a good run around after that, and I could only judge it from that.
"If there had been a major doubt in my head I wouldn't have played. I just did what I felt was best for the team."
After eliminating the Panthers, the Raiders will now face the Melbourne Storm in a preliminary final at AAMI Park next Saturday night.
In what will be the Raiders' first preliminary final berth in over two decades – and the club's first in the NRL era –Hodgson was already embracing the challenge ahead.
The Englishman is now set to oppose Storm, Maroons and Australian captain Cameron Smith for just the fourth time in his NRL career.
The hooking duo remain two of the favourites to win the Dally M Medal on Wednesday week.
"There's no point playing the game if you don't want to play against the best. What's the point if you want to be average?" Hodgson said.
"When you're a young fella coming through you watch clips of the best. Not just (Smith) but other players too, and what you can use out of their game and add to your own."
Game on. Data off.
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