Canberra Raiders co-captain Josh Hodgson has declared the Green Machine is ready to go for their season opener against the Gold Coast Titans.
A revamped Raiders fly to Queensland on Friday with half a new spine and a trimmed down forward pack in the engine room.
Raiders co-captain Josh Hodgson says they’re ready for the 2019 season. Credit: Karleen Minney
Jack Wighton has shifted from fullback to join Aidan Sezer in the halves, while Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad answered the Raiders' call from across the Ditch to become the new custodian.
They've also given their defence a makeover in a bid to return to the NRL finals.
Hodgson was excited for the games to begin.
"If you're not ready now you never will be after three months of pre-season," he said on Wednesday.
"We're all good and ready to go. Everyone's just really excited for the year to be back again, it's been a long old off-season."
Raiders coaching consultant Michael Ennis said the new campaign marked a new beginning for the Green Machine, after a couple of seasons without finals action.
He felt Canberra are a team packed with potential, but they need to be wary not to allow that to be a dirty word.
Ennis has been brought in to help make Hodgson even better, and also re-jig their attack on the opposition's tryline.
"No one gets to the last game in October through sheer luck. It comes on the back of a really strong pre-season, through the foundations you build through the first six weeks of the season and the non-negotiables as a side you're not willing to budge on," he said.
"Canberra have got a side with potential, but potential's a dangerous word.
"You've got to be able to galvanise as a group and be willing to do all the things that we've seen from the likes of the Roosters and Melbourne that have been able to do that for so long.
"It's an exciting opportunity for them to be able to do that. It's a clean slate."
The Raiders will be without Michael Oldfield (groin), who is set to miss the opening two-four rounds.
With star flyer Jordan Rapana (shoulder) also out, it's opened the door for Bailey Simonsson to make his NRL debut after starting the pre-season on a train-and-trial contract.
Hodgson said a similar opportunity opened up for Nick Cotric on the eve of the 2017 season, when salary cap issues forced Edrick Lee to join Cronulla just days before round one.
Look at how that's turned out.
"We've got depth, which is what we needed this year, we've got the depth to cover it," Hodgson said.
"With someone of Oldie's experience and we saw how well he went last year when he got a chance with us when Rapa was out with his hammy.
"He's always a loss for us, he's such an experienced kid and he's loved by all the boys, we love playing alongside him, but that's footy and sometimes that's what it takes for kids to get a chance.
"A couple of years ago we lost Edrick Lee for salary cap reasons and we ended up breaking Nick Cotric onto the scene and we saw how well he's gone from there.
"This is the opportunity that kids get and they've just got to take it with both hands."
Corey Horsburgh's another who has bashed the door down to earn his NRL debut against the Titans.
He was named on the bench after impressing in the pre-season trials.
"I know when [Ricky Stuart] spoke to me and a few other blokes about what our thoughts were on the team, he was in all our teams," Hodgson said.
"I think that speaks volumes – if you're a young kid and the senior players in the team are all picking you.
"I think he deserves a crack. He's really worked hard and I know he's really excited to be in the team."
NRL ROUND ONE
Sunday: Canberra Raiders v Gold Coast Titans on the Gold Coast, 6.10pm. Live on Fox League.
Source: Read Full Article