Williams backs Green Machine to kick-start into gear
They've had the red pen put through their chances of making the finals by most pundits, but halfback Sam Williams says as long as there is a chance, the Raiders know they can shock the rest of the NRL.
To continue their season past round 25, Canberra will have to replicate their giant-killing run in 2016, in which they won 10 straight on their way to the preliminary final.
Their chances of another giant-killing run took a significant blow after they gave up a 16-0 half-time lead last weekend to the Broncos.
As long as the door on the top eight isn't totally slammed shut, Williams backed the Raiders to fight until the bitter end.
"Sometimes it makes it a little bit easier knowing we've got to win the game and every player on that field is going to be doing everything he can to win the game," Williams said.
"The ball's still in our court, we can still make the finals and we're still planning on doing that, so this week is the start of a big run and hopefully we can finish in that top eight."
Williams comes into the starting side for Blake Austin, who was targeted by the Brisbane attack last weekend, resulting in three missed and four ineffective tackles.
It's not the first time Austin has been relegated to the bench, having worn the No.14 jersey against the Warriors in round three before he was dropped to the Intrust Super Premiership the following week.
Off contract, Austin will also be looking for a huge performance personally having yet to secure his future with the Raiders or Parramatta, a team he met last week to discuss the possibility of becoming an Eel next year.
"I think he's one of the most dynamic players in the competition and coming on into a game with tired players it's a pretty scary thought for any opposition," Williams said of Austin coming off the bench.
"So, I know he'll be fired up and come on with a lot of energy, he has a lot of energy over 80 minutes so if it's a little bit shorter then he'll have even more and it's a real bonus for us that we can have somebody like Blake we can bring on in a tight game."
If the Raiders are to perform a mini-miracle and win their last nine games, six of which are against top-eight sides, the spectacular return form of hooker Josh Hodgson will be crucial.
Hodgson has not missed a beat since his return from ACL surgery and said he pulled up fine after his 80-minute effort against Brisbane last weekend.
His return to punching out a full game allows former hooker Siliva Havili to move into lock, replacing Queensland rep Josh Papalii.
"I thought Siliva went really well at lock and had some strong carries and couple of times he poked his nose through the line," Hodgson said.
"He's pretty skilled as well so anytime you can have a guy who's strong with the carry and can pass in the middle, it always helps."
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Despite the Bulldogs winning just 4-11 this season and only winning one of their last six at Belmore, Hodgson said they would present a massive challenge.
"Realistically we're probably going to have to win all of our remaining games if we're going to make a push for the eight," he said.
"Deano [Pay] will have the Dogs fired up and he'll know what areas he wants to target, but we've made a few changes this week."