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Rapana's rapid return catches Canberra co-captains on the hop

Jordan Rapana's return from a shoulder reconstruction this week was so unexpected, it even caught the team's co-captains unawares.

Jarrod Croker and Josh Hodgson knew the Canberra excitement machine was burning the candle at both ends to be passed fit as early as humanly possible, but even they were stunned when he was named in the 17 on Tuesday for Friday's home clash with Melbourne.

Rapana was tipped to return around week 12 with whispers growing louder in recent weeks the New Zealand International would be back even sooner.

"I actually didn't have any idea, I knew he was coming along quite well and that he was a little bit ahead of schedule, which was around round 10," Croker said.

"Only Rapa could do that, for somebody in the past hasn't been the best trainer and he's a pretty laid-back sort of bloke.

"But credit to him as soon as he got injured he got stuck into his rehab with our trainers and he's passed all of his tests and he's been doing contact.

"He's just excited to get out amongst it and we're stoked to have him back."

Croker revealed the 29-year-old told the team in November he was aiming to miss no more than a handful of games, now he has returned around nine weeks early.

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"We all sort of laughed it off," Croker said.

"But he's worked so hard and done all of his rehab and weight work and to his credit.

"We spoke to Rapa and he knows he is a senior player so it's probably a point that he has extra responsibility for doing all of the little things when nobody is around."

Hodgson also praised Rapana's work ethic in defying the odds to bolster the Raiders attack as they seek to atone for their slow starts in recent season.

"Hat's off to him, it's probably the hardest I've ever seen him train in his career," Hodgson said.

"He's not renowned for being the hardest trainer in the world, if he laidback any more he'd fall over.

"But he's just a happy go-lucky lad and he loves what he does for a living, so he had a tough time with the setback thinking he was going to be out for a while.

"But he just knuckled down and did what he had to do in the gym."

Rapana's return means he again links up with his "partner in crime" Joey Leilua on Canberra's right edge, with the pair squaring off against Melbourne's Will Chambers and Josh Addo-Carr.

After scoring in round one, Leilua will be out to continue his hot streak crossing the line against the Storm, having bagged 10 tries from his last 13 games against Melbourne.  

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It not the only tantalising match-up on Friday night, especially in the wake of the Storm's impressive defeat of Brisbane in round one.

"This week it's a massive game for us, the Storm have been one of the top sides for the last 10 or 15 years and this year it's going to be no different for those guys," Croker said.

"They played really well last weekend against the Broncos so it's good to get them nice and early, it's to get them at home."

The clash will be a true litmus test for the Raiders, who have lost six of their past seven games against the Storm.

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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