Raiders can match Warriors' physicality: Hodgson
Josh Hodgson knows Canberra are walking into the lion's den as they travel to face a New Zealand Warriors side hosting arguably one of its most important games in club history on Friday night.
The hosts could finish in the top four and earn themselves a home final, if they can make it four wins from the final five weeks against the Raiders.
It is also a milestone match for Warriors stalwart Simon Mannering as he plays his 300th game for the NRL club and Hodgson knows it's likely to be a hostile environment.
"They've got everything to play for as well as Simon Mannering's 300th, it's going to be a massive occasion and a great atmosphere," the Raiders skipper said.
"We know they're going to come out all guns blazing, and we know it's going to be a physical affair as it always is with the Warriors."
It might have taken most of the season for Canberra to crack their winning formula, but the Raiders will want to bottle the last fortnight for this week and 2019.
While high completion rates and a low error count are hardly a new concept for winning games in the Telstra Premiership, the combined result allows the Raiders to be more efficient in defence late in games.
There has been no better example of than two weeks ago when Canberra held on against the Sydney Roosters, thanks to 94% completion and four errors.
Compare this to 76% completion and nine errors in round three when the Warriors were able to kick two field goals in the last 90 seconds to win.
"We've got a big team, Junior [Paulo], [Shannon] Boydy, Papa [Josh Papalii] and they've very strong carrying the ball but they're not going to be if we're turning over cheap possession and we're in the 60 to 70 per cent [completion rate], " Hodgson said.
Canberra's kicking game will also need to be crucial if they are to round out their season with a third win in a row as the Warriors' back five mirrors their own and often bails their forwards out of trouble deep in their own half.
Warriors fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck leads the Telstra Premiership in kick return metres with 1248 and is fourth overall for total run metres with 3919.
"You look at their outside backs and they're so good at getting their sets going, they're probably as big as their front-rowers," Hodgson said.
"So, we know we've got to be good early on in the piece but the last couple of weeks we've been really good at turning up for each defensively especially on our goal line.
"We look at everybody and their key strengths, him and the other wingers and their centres along with Tuivasa-Sheck because they're really at getting their sets going and getting the momentum for their big boys to roll off the back of that."
Hodgson said the Raiders will be able to take some confidence heading into the off-season after their impressive recent form.
However, the word most often used by the players during the past fortnight has been frustrating, as they are forced to watch the finals from the sideline.
"I think it can be a big boost for us going forward, we've got some good additions coming in John Bateman and Ryan Sutton and young guys who get a go like Emre [Guler] and Jack Murchie," Hodgson said.
"I'll imagine they'll have a bit more of a future going forward so looking at them and the new faces coming to the club on the back of a positive end to the season I think it's a good confidence booster."