Parramatta coach Brad Arthur has described Canberra as the form team of the NRL and warns the loss of hooker Josh Hodgson won’t put a chink in their armour.
The Raiders will be without their influential No.9 for Sunday’s clash with the Eels after he elected to take a week’s suspension for a grapple tackle despite the fact he would have been able to play with an early guilty plea.
While Arthur won’t be sad to see the English international sitting on the sidelines, he said Ricky Stuart’s side remained one of the most formidable opponents in the competition.
“With their roster they haven’t built their performances around one player,” Arthur said.
“It would have been ideal to have him in the team but I don’t think it’s going to matter too much the way they play.
“Young (Kurt) Baptiste will come in and he’s nice and fast out of dummy-half as well. I don’t think it will affect them that much.”
Hodgson has been a driving force behind the Raiders’ push into third place this season and was in Dally M contention before he elected to plead no contest to a dangerous contact charge this week.
Hodgson was stripped of three Dally M points, effectively ruling him out of the running for the game’s most prestigious individual honour, after making the selfless decision to miss a game because of concern about the prospect of carryover points costing him a game during the finals.
Sunday’s clash is filled with subplots with Stuart coming up against his old side while prop Junior Paulo faces the Eels for the first time since his mid-season departure from Parramatta.
After the Eels defeated top-placed teams Cronulla and Melbourne in consecutive weeks, Arthur described the Raiders as the form team of the competition.
“Their performance against Melbourne the other night was probably the best team performance I’ve seen from anyone this year,” Arthur said.
“They put a lot of energy into that game and their tryline defence was very strong and very committed.”