Croker is a key figure in the Raiders line-up. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)
Croker is a key figure in the Raiders line-up. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

Raiders to get physical with Dragons

CANBERRA will take a page of out South Sydney's playbook on Sunday when they take on St George Illawarra in Mudgee.

Raiders captain Jarrod Croker says the Rabbitohs have uncovered the blueprint needed to beat the team now widely considered the competition's new benchmark.

"When the Bunnies are playing their best footy it's with those big Burgess boys just rolling through teams," he said.

"They were physical up the middle and matched the Dragons forward pack.

"It's obviously a little thing we looked at [this week] as well, the Bunnies did that to us [a few weeks ago] so it was a bit of a lesson learned there to as well."

The Raiders are still without man mountain Junior Paulo, who suffered a 10-week foot injury against the Titans, but Croker said his pack still has the venom to halt the Dragons' go-forward.

Sam Burgess gave the Dragons hell. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)
Sam Burgess gave the Dragons hell. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

"I remember at the start of the season thinking 'geez they have a really good forward pack' and they've come out and been the best team over the first 10 rounds," he said.

"It's a big test for our boys in the middle there to really aim up against them.

"I know our boys won't be taking a backwards step."

Five-eighth Blake Austin is firming as a certain starter after it was feared he suffered a serious ankle injury in last weekend's 24-16 loss to Cronulla.

Austin walked away from that game in a moon boot and on crutches after his foot was caught under the weight of Sharks big man Andrew Fifita.

But the playmaker has defied the odds and made a remarkable recovery.

Five-eighth Blake Austin is back after injuring his ankle against the Sharks.
Five-eighth Blake Austin is back after injuring his ankle against the Sharks.

"He trained pretty well. He got through pretty much the whole session so it was a bit of a miraculous turnaround for him but he's done alright," Croker said.

"He's being doing some physio and he's back on deck. Hopefully he gets through the [Captain's run] unscathed and he'll be good to go."

But the Raiders will be without dynamo hooker Josh Hodgson for at least another five weeks with coach Ricky Stuart reluctant to rush back his most important player.

The Green Machine have sorely missed the control and guidance the Englishman adds on the footy field.

"You're always going to miss Hodgo, he's a world class player and has been one of our best players over the last couple of years consistently," Croker said.

"He's out there doing a fair bit now … he's looking pretty good at the moment. We haven't really put a time frame to be honest but like I said he is looking pretty good.

"We don't want to put too much pressure on him to get back, we want him to ease his way into it … it's obviously a tough injury to get back from.


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