Hodgson walking freely around Raiders HQ

With or without playmakers Josh Hodgson and Blake Austin, Canberra are backing themselves to beat Penrith in Saturday’s sudden death NRL semi-final.

Coach Ricky Stuart will name the pair on Tuesday to take on the Panthers at GIO Stadium.

But whether they will be fit in time for the do-or-die clash won’t be known until later in the week.

The club is giving Hodgson every chance to recover from an ankle injury, suffered early in the second half of the Raiders’ qualifying final loss to Cronulla.

Austin, meanwhile, is returning from a broken hand sustained at training more than a fortnight ago.

Hodgson left the ground on Saturday wearing a moon boot but was walking freely around the Green Machine’s training base on Monday.

“It’s a good sign,” said winger Edrick Lee.

“We’ve just got to see how he goes through the week and if he pulls through.

“If he’s unfortunate enough not to make it, the coach has got an option in Adam Clydsdale or we could be reshuffled.”

Hodgson has missed just one match this season, through suspension against Parramatta in round 24. It handed former Newcastle rake Clydsdale his first start of the year following three appearances off the bench.

The Raiders still won that game comfortably and prop Joseph Tapine reckons they could do it again if Hodgson is sidelined.

“Definitely,” he said.

“We’ve got depth through the whole squad.”

The Dally M Medal hope is the NRL’s leading hooker in terms of linebreaks and try assists.

Prop Junior Paulo has benefited immensely from the Hodgson’s stellar form this season and said the Englishman was working hard on his rehab to be available.

“For now, we’re training as if Hodgo will be there and is packing in at hooker,” Paulo said.

If both Hodgson and Austin do play, it will be a boon for the Raiders who are preparing for a high-tempo clash with the Panthers following their win over Canterbury on Sunday.

The loss to Cronulla was Canberra’s first after 10 straight victories but hasn’t diminished their confidence.

If anything, the experience has them primed for Saturday – especially those 11 who made their finals debut against the Sharks.

“We all enjoyed the moment and it’ll help us against the Panthers,” Lee said.

“We know that they’ve got a lot of youth and they like to throw the ball around, so I’m sure this week we’ll be working to stop their offloads and stay up as a line.

“It’ll be another big game but anything can happen.”

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