Injury has thrown Canberra’s charge towards a drought-breaking NRL premiership into chaos, with star hooker Josh Hodgson in serious doubt for next week’s do-or-die semi-final.
Hodgson left GIO Stadium in a moon-boot on Saturday night after injuring his ankle in the Raiders’ 16-14 qualifying final loss to Cronulla.
The Dally M Medal contender, who scored the Raiders’ first try, was carried off the field after getting whacked by a stray boot from teammate Aidan Sezer in the 43rd minute.
He was later seen in the dressing room heavily strapped and hobbling but did not return.
Coach Ricky Stuart was unsure how serious the injury was but was far from optimistic about him playing against Penrith or Canterbury on Saturday in the nation’s capital.
“He’s crook,” he said.
“I don’t know (how bad it is). We’ve got to get scans and that.
“I’ll name him to play next week, but he’s very doubtful.”
Hodgson has not only been one of the Raiders’ best this season, but is arguably the competition’s leading dummy-half.
Before this weekend, no other No.9 had recorded as many linebreaks or try assists as the Englishman.
He was also tied with Australian captain Cameron Smith for 13 linebreak assists.
To make matters worse for the Raiders, whose 10-game winning streak came to an end against the Sharks, fellow playmaker Blake Austin is still recovering from a broken hand suffered at training.
The five-eighth has backed himself for a return next week, but Stuart says he won’t make a call until closer to game day.
“I understand it’s a very important decision and selection, so I’ll name him in the No.6 jumper and I’ll let you know as soon as I know,” he said.
“I won’t be trying to hide whether he’s going to play or not.
“There’ll be no ducks and drakes – I’ll let you know as soon as I know if he’s going to be medically fit to play.”
The Raiders, who finished the season in second place and are chasing their first title in 22 years, haven’t reached the playoffs since 2012.
They beat the Sharks in week one that year but lost to South Sydney in the semi-final.