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Hodgson believes he could have made Raiders return earlier

Canberra hooker Josh Hodgson has declared his surgically repaired knee is ready to withstand the rigours of his NRL return when he runs out to face the Wests Tigers at Campbelltown on Sunday.

The English rake said, if anything, the club has held him back a handful of weeks just to make sure he had fully recovered. 

"I've been full-contact for a good four or five weeks now," Hodgson said.

"I saw the surgeon at six months [into rehabilitation] and he was happy with everything and this weekend will be seven months and that's usually what the surgeon will say is a safe point to go back and play.

"I've been itching to play for a few weeks but it's one of those things you don't want to risk being out for another season, so I just had to play it safe and I always had the seven-month mark in my mind.

"I said if I wasn't right at the seven-month mark then I wouldn't come back."

Canberra face a crucial couple of virtual must-win matches if they are to sneak into the top eight, as they face the Tigers and travel to Suncorp Stadium to tackle Brisbane in round 16.

The hosts will be out to break a recent hoodoo at Campbelltown having lost their past six games at the venue. The Raiders will also be looking to extend their impressive winning streak over the joint-venture side, having won their last three games against the Tigers by a combined margin of 136 points.

Hodgson: It's been a long road back

Hodgson said he wasn't being placed on a minutes restriction in his return by coach Ricky Stuart, rather he will assess his own fitness levels depending on the flow of the game.

"Six months' worth of fitness but you can never get game fit without playing a lot of games so game management for me is going to be a big one," he said.

"We've got Siliva [Havili] as well that we can interchange, I might feel sweet and be able to punch out 50 to 60 minutes, but I might blow up pretty early.

"We've got that options if it takes me three or four games to get that match fitness up a little bit when we've got Siliva."

Hodgson ruled out being the "saviour" for Canberra's season, but he does return at an opportune time.

Canberra, who are on 12 points, still need to win around eight of their last 11 games to be sure of making the finals.

Coaches Corner: Which Origin stars backed up

At least 27 competition points has been the minimum needed for eighth place on the ladder since 2010 but that was with two byes so 25 or 26 is likely to be the cut-off this year with next weekend's representative round replacing the second bye for each team on the schedule.

"I think we are still in a position to make the finals, I think it's that tight this year," Hodgson said.

"We've lost a lot of tight games over the years but the one positive thing you can take out of them is we're always in them, it's better to be in those tight games rather than getting flogged by 30 every week.

"It's about us fine-tuning our game plan a little and we've always got the confidence in ourselves we can make the finals."

The Raiders will receive a further boost with the return of Joe Tapine from suspension with the young Kiwi international hoping he and Hodgson will be able to give the side a lift after their one-point loss to Penrith last weekend.

"[Hodgson] is an outstanding player, he brings a lot to the team attack-wise and in defence and he brings a lot of experience," Tapine said.

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