Raiders out to add Melbourne to NRL scalps

His team sit just behind Melbourne on the competition table, but Canberra hooker Josh Hodgson insist the Storm are still the club everyone wants to become.

A week after knocking Cronulla from the top of the table, the Raiders will become just the second team in 30 years to take down league leaders in consecutive weeks if they can beat Melbourne on Monday.

The Sydney Roosters are the only other team since 1986 that have defeated leaders in back-to-back weeks.

In one of the most-anticipated clashes of the year, Canberra, winners of six straight, host the Storm, winners of seven straight, in a possible preview of a qualifying final.

Another win for the Raiders would see them usurp the Storm as the hottest team in the NRL, but that still won’t be enough for the Green Machine.

“They’re very good at what they do and not only that, they’re very consistent. That’s something that we’re striving for, to be consistent every week,” Hodgson said.

“We’re not quite there yet, but we’re slowly and surely improving.”

In-form Hodgson also faces off against Australian captain and Dally M favourite Cameron Smith in a clash of the game’s premier hookers.

Hodgson was just two points behind Smith, Storm halfback Cooper Cronk and Gold Coast forward Ryan James when voting went behind closed doors at the end of round 16.

The English international laughed off the possibility of being in contention for one of the game’s highest honours, which has been taken out by backline stars for the past nine years.

Smith was the last forward to claim the medal in 2006.

“My family used to tell me the standings, but I don’t really worry too much about that,” he said.

“I just worry about myself, churning out, working out and whatever I get off the back of that is a bonus. It’s always good playing against great opposition and great people in your opposition.”

In a fascinating contrast of styles, Canberra’s league-best attack meets Melbourne’s league-best defence, as well as two of the competition’s best exponents of Monday night football since 2007.

Both teams have won more 60 per cent of their games played in the final game of the round.

Raiders pivot Blake Austin is set to overcome a shoulder issue to take his place in the team, while Jordan McLean is expected to come back from an ankle injury for Melbourne after Nelson Asofa-Solomona and Felise Kaufusi were sent back to Queensland Cup.


* Canberra’s 10 wins from 36 matches against Melbourne is its worst record against any opponent all-time. Melbourne won 14 consecutive matches against the Raiders from 2003 to 2009.

* Melbourne is on track to become the best defensive team of the NRL era, leaking an average of just 11.5 points per game. Only two teams have conceded less than 12 points since 1998 – the Storm in 2007 and 2008.

* All Offers and Promotions posted in this article excludes NSW residents.
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