Former Raider Hodgson looks to send message to critics

·3-min read
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Josh Hodgson will hope a trip to his former home of Canberra can inspire his best form as he continues to adapt to life at Parramatta.

The 138-game former Raiders captain will head to GIO Stadium for the first time as an opposition player, having struggled early in his tenure at the Eels.

Hogdson isn't just finding his feet at a new club but also getting match fitness after an ACL tear saw him sit out his final season in the capital.

The hooker has looked a far cry from the player that led the Raiders to the 2019 grand final and got them within six points of their first premiership since 1994.

He remains a respected figure at the club and Canberra coach Ricky Stuart found it fitting Hodson would return on the club's Forever Green match, which celebrates the contributions by all former Raiders players.

"It's a great coincidence it's old boys round, he's been a wonderful asset to this club ever since he signed here," he said.

"He's captained the club, he got to probably the height of his career playing at this club in regards to profile and talent.

"He's had some bad luck in regards to his injuries too, but he'll always be remembered as a fierce, fierce competitor."

Eels back Bailey Simonsson, also a former Raider, said Hodgson's leadership and experience was shining through and would see him respond to criticism.

"One thing I know about 'Hodgo' is that he's a competitor. He's a hard worker," he said.

"I can't speak for him, but I'm sure there's a bit of a fire lit in him to prove people wrong.

"He's improving every week, and we all know the player he is and what he's capable of."

The Eels will miss star halfback Mitch Moses, perhaps opening the door for Hodgson to play more of the steering role he was renowned for as a Raider.

There's now minimal injury issues for Canberra, finding themselves sending players down to NSW Cup instead of calling replacements up with perceived first-team regulars Xavier Savage and Corey Harawira-Naera plying their trade in the seconds.

Stuart even hinted top-line winger Nick Cotric could be forced to play Cup on his return from a hamstring injury given the form of incumbents Jordan Rapana and Albert Hopoate, the latter recalled after missing Magic Round to attend a family wedding.

"That's the sign of a strong club, pressure on the players underneath the top 17," Stuart said.

"If you haven't got that, people fall into comfort zones, into a little bit of the area where I can take a shortcut and still play first grade.

"We don't go out on a limb wanting to promote our culture (but) that's probably a great example of it … it's not about the individual and it's about the team at the end of the day."