Hodgson the X-Factor as Raiders eye late finals charge
Raiders coach Ricky Stuart believes the successful return of Josh Hodgson was so influential it can help propel the side back into finals contention in the second half of the NRL Telstra Premiership season.
Canberra's big win over the Wests Tigers in Campbelltown was arguably their best performance of the year, spearheaded by Hodgson who returned after seven months out with a knee injury.
The Raiders have moved to ninth on the competition ladder, two wins outside the top eight as a four-point buffer separates the top half of the table from the bottom.
Stuart agreed Hodgson's performance on Sunday showed how influential one player can be.
"I said all along that we were never going to use it as an excuse," Stuart said of the hooker's absence for the first half of the season.
"There's two points to make. We wouldn't be where we are on the table if he was playing at the start of the year.
"Yes he is that big of a difference. From where I was standing watching the game, we went to another level.
"The other point is I don't want to undervalue what Siliva [Havili] has done, an enormous job filling in for him. To fill in for a player of that standard and quality. He's world class, Josh Hodgson."
Stuart praised Havili's impact at the club.
He acknowledged the Tongan international's contribution to the side in the opening four months of the season in the sheds following the game.
"A guy who was lucky to handle 10 minutes of NRL football when he first joined us, to be playing 80 minutes this year," Stuart said.
"Now he'll be on our bench as utility forward, not just a nine - it adds massive difference to the team."
Hodgson was a relieved man post-match, playing down his performance and the side's result.
While players with ACL injuries aim for the six-month recovery period, Hodgson ensured he added on an extra month to get through contact work to be at his best when he returned.
Match: Wests Tigers vs Raiders
Round 15 -
Venue: Campbelltown Stadium
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"People come back at six and some come back earlier than that, it's just when you're right in yourself," Hodgson said.
"I always wanted a good 5-6 weeks of good contact in me and that fitness level before I came back.
"That's why I was so headstrong on seven months."
But Sunday's result was nothing to be excited about according to the England international, who will miss next week's Test match in Denver to focus on club football.
"It's certainly a good point to start on a personal and a team level," Hodgson said.
"That's one of them where you don't want to get carried away and say 'we're back'. It's always going to be a work in progress. There's only been twice this year where we've been blown out of the water.
"We've always been in games, it's just tight periods where we stuck to our game plan and got the big victory in the end."