OPINION

Laurie Daley | Canberra Raiders, Josh Hodgson look to right the ship

Playing Josh Hodgson as a loose forward could be just what the Canberra Raiders need. Photo: Matt Blyth/Getty Images
Playing Josh Hodgson as a loose forward could be just what the Canberra Raiders need. Photo: Matt Blyth/Getty Images

There has been plenty said about what has gone wrong at the Canberra Raiders.

It's pretty obvious their start to the season has been disappointing and, on the back of five-straight defeats, questions are being asked.

No-one would be working harder to fix things right now than coach Ricky Stuart.

I for one think Josh Hodgson remains a key part of that happening.

For whatever reason, Hodgson's return after he missed a big chunk of 2020 hasn't been as smooth as the Raiders would have hoped or most people expected.

I think we all just expected him to slot back in, pick up from where he left off when he was one of the game's best hookers in 2019 and the Raiders would be an even bigger force than they have been the past two seasons.

It hasn't worked out that way.

The Raiders halves, Jack Wighton and George Williams, played without him last season and adjusted their games to take on more responsibility as a result.

Now that he's back though, there has been something amiss with the communication between the hooker and the halves - they just haven't gelled as expected.

The key to unlocking the Raiders may well be in doing what Ricky is planning this week - playing Tom Starling at dummy half and Hodgson as a loose forward, presumably to do a lot of the first receiver work in his return game from injury.

It's along the same lines that the Roosters use Victor Radley, Souths use Cam Murray and the Panthers use Isaah Yeo.

It will push the Raiders halves a little wider, where they will be more of an attacking threat on the edges.

One thing the Raiders must address is their alarming second half fade-outs.

The stats on the points they score and concede in the second half are unbelievable.

It's a real confidence thing and they just need something to click for it to change quickly because they are too good a footy team to keep failing.

There were some positives from their loss to the Knights in Wagga with the return to form of Josh Papalii probably the biggest one.

I thought he was great for them and almost back to his damaging best.

From a confidence perspective, playing against the struggling Bulldogs in Magic Round in Brisbane could be the perfect game to get the ball rolling again.

The Dogs will no doubt be willing early, like most games.

But even allowing for the current slump, the class of the Raiders should be enough to get them home and just maybe, get them back on track.

BRONCOS COUP

Kevvie Walters and the Broncos needed a big signing scalp and it looks like they have one in Adam Reynolds.

The halfback position has been a huge issue for Brisbane for several years, but they've now picked up a premiership-winning playmaker.

Most weeks, he comes up with a 7.5 or an 8 out of 10 performance and just the direction and field position he provides will be massive for the Broncos.

I've got no doubt he has the ability to turn Brisbane into a top-eight side again next season, so he'll be a massive boost for the club.

MAGIC ROUND GAMES 

TIGERS v KNIGHTS

I was pretty confident the Knights would win this but now it's closer to a 50/50 call with Kalyn Ponga out.

He is such an integral part of the Newcastle attack and their mindset without him will tell a lot about their footy team. The Tigers have already beaten Newcastle in Newcastle, so they will smell another win. My tip: Knights

EAGLES v BRONCOS:

With Tommy Turbo back, the Eagles have won four from five with their only loss to the unbeaten Panthers.

They are just a completely different side with him in there and he'll be a huge influence on this game again.

The Broncos just don't have the consistency there for me to tip them, even though they are playing at home. My tip: Eagles

SHARKS v RABBITOHS

I didn't think I would ever see a Wayne Bennett-coached side concede 50 points in a game, so I can imagine the Souths defence would have been spoken about ad nauseam this week in the build-up to this game.

I'm pretty sure we'll see a marked improvement in attitude there.

With Reynolds back, he'll make a huge difference to their attacking structure as well.

The poor old Sharks must be wondering where their next win might come. I highly doubt it will be here. My tip: Rabbitohs

ROOSTERS v COWBOYS

Despite all their setbacks, they are a resilient bunch the Roosters with a great attitude when it comes to rolling up the sleeves and digging in for one another.

They never laid down against the Eels last weekend.

I can see them rising to the occasion again in this one against a Cowboys side yet to put in anything remotely close to an 80-minute performance. My tip: Roosters

WARRIORS v EELS

There'll be no Dylan Brown for the Eels, and they've had some issues to deal with regarding who's available and when they can train.

But I still expect them to get the job down against a willing Warriors side.

For mine, the Eels' forward pack is one of the strongest in the competition and they'll lay the platform for Mitch Moses and Clint Gutherson to get their side home. My tip: Eels

STORM v DRAGONS

Some big outs for the Storm in Munster and hookers Grant and Smith.

This game won't be one-sided by any stretch, but they just have a way of finding how to win, Melbourne. My tip: Storm.

TITANS v PANTHERS

Penrith beat you scoring points and also beat you with their outstanding defensive system.

I haven't seen so much as a chink in their armour yet. My tip: Panthers

This story Laurie Daley | Canberra Raiders, Josh Hodgson look to right the ship first appeared on The Canberra Times.