Raiders coach Ricky Stuart is confident English stars George Williams and Josh Hodgson will stay next season despite the intense scrutiny around them in recent days.
After the Green Machine crashed to a fourth consecutive loss against South Sydney last week, it has emerged that Williams has told the club he's homesick, while Hodgson had stood down as co-captain before suffering a calf injury three weeks ago.
The revelations have sparked interest in Hodgson from other NRL clubs, while Williams has been linked with Wigan and Warrington but Stuart said on Friday that he was expecting both to remain in Canberra.
They are contracted until the end of next season, but Williams and his partner Charlotte Lewis are preparing for the birth of their first child away from their families in England and any feelings of isolation have been exacerbated by COVID travel restrictions.
"People go through this type of situation," Stuart said on Friday in Wagga Wagga where the team is preparing for Saturday's clash with Newcastle.
Raiders v Knights - Round 9
"It is not uncommon for people to feel homesickness but it is not a disease, it goes away, so we will do everything we can for George and Charly."
Asked whether he was confident Hodgson would be at the club next year, Stuart said: "We knew about this two or three weeks ago and it hasn’t surprised us. We have dealt with this and we have moved on."
England teammate Elliott Whitehead has taken over from Hodgson as co-captain and he will lead the Raiders against the Knights in the absence of injured centre Jarrod Croker (shoulder).
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Besides Hodgson, who has missed the past two matches, the Raiders have also been without star fullback Charnze Niccol-Klokstaad (neck) since the round-four defeat of the Titans and Williams (hamstring) withdrew on the eve of last week’s clash with Souths.
As a result Whitehead had to shift from the second row to five-eighth, with Jack Wighton taking over the halfback duties, while prop Josh Papali’i was rested.
"It was a neural problem with George’s hamstring," Stuart said. "It came from his back last week and it was unfortunate timing with the injury occurring in the warm-up but he has trained really well this week.
"The boys are upbeat and we are training well and that is a really positive sign so hopefully a win is not far away and it fixes a lot of the uneasiness and the disgruntledness you get from losing.
"We all want to win and that [losing] creates a sour taste but the boys are really good.
"I have been amazed at how they are handling this difficult situation but they are upbeat and looking forward to getting a good performance in that is good enough to win."
Stuart praised Whitehead’s leadership and said Papali’i was refreshed after his week off.
Raiders v Knights - Round 9
"Josh and I sat down and had a good chat about the week off last week and why we were doing it," Stuart said.
"He was ringing me over the weekend saying he was hungry to play this week.
"It was important for the team to have one of our leaders of the pack wanting to play and be up front so I am starting him and hoping for, and expecting, a big performance from him.
"We have a couple of senior players that have a good, strong, influential actions and voice, and that is really important. Elliott is a very likeable person and the boys follow his lead, and he has been wonderful the last couple of weeks.
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"We haven’t been far away the last three or four weeks in winning games. It is just a couple of poor choices, a couple of poor executions and we are leaking a try or two.
"It is not good enough and it is something we have spoken about and it is something we want to improve on because we are scoring enough points, we have just got to stop leaking a couple of softer tries.
"It is not hunger, we have got really good players and defenders making decisions in defence that are not at the NRL level."