Stuart concedes Hodgson is huge loss
Kurt Baptiste's move to Super League for next season is just about finalised but Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart still has a bad taste in his mouth about being left in the lurch over his starting hooker.
His first-choice No.9 was Josh Hodgson but he is gone for the bulk of 2018 due to a knee reconstruction after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in England's semi-final win over Tonga.
Stuart had recruited Craig Garvey from the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs as a back-up to Hodgson, allowing Baptiste to go to the UK. In light of Hodgson's long-term injury, the Raiders have added Tonga international Siliva Havili from the St George Illawarra Dragons on a one-year deal.
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Canberra had nine NRL players involved in the World Cup, 10 if you include Havili. The club's strong representation is a source of immense pride for Stuart but the side-effects have left him angry.
"I get very confused though, in light of what has happened to Josh. I wonder if I should have a greedy attitude and say 'stuff rep football, I just want them to play for us'," he told NRL.com.
"We have archaic rules in letting other people use what we, the clubs, develop through our own high-performance team and coaching staff. We do everything we can professionally for them and they get injured. I get that that happens but there should be some dispensation or compensation."
So what is the Green Machine's hooking solution?
"I haven't got one. That's the position we're in. It's not fair apparently for us to get some dispensation for that. We've just got to take a knock," Stuart said, referring to appeals by the Raiders to the NRL for ways to keep Baptiste.
"I get back three players (Joey Leilua, Junior Paulo, Josh Papalii) very unfit and overweight from their rep trip with Samoa, I have a player with medial ligament trouble in (New Zealand forward) Joe Tapine, and I've got Josh out for the best part of the season.
"So why do I keep pushing my players to play rep football? Because I'm not a greedy coach. Maybe I should change."