Hodgson stars as Raiders rampage over Tigers
JOSH Hodgson is as important to the Canberra Raiders as Cameron Smith is to the Melbourne Storm.
That was the stunning praise from Phil Gould after the Englishman's brilliant return from injury inspired Canberra to a thumping 48-12 win over Wests Tigers at Campbelltown.
After seven months on the sidelines following an ACL knee injury suffered at last year's World Cup, Hodgson was easily the most dominant player on the field, having a hand in four of the Raiders' nine tries.
The loss was a huge blow to the Tigers' hopes of making this year's top eight - and even with the arrival of Moses Mbye this week and possibly Robbie Farah before June 30, this embarrassing loss highlights the enormous job ahead of them.
Canberra now join the Tigers on 14 competition points but jump over them into ninth spot because of a better points differential.
What it means is that both teams now will probably need to win seven of their remaining 10 games to make the finals cut.
But the way the Raiders absolutely blew the Tigers away today, you'd wouldn't be betting against them.
In Channel 9 commentary, Andrew Johns suggested with Hodgson back the Raiders threaten to be the team that comes from outside the top eight to charge home this year.
"Oh they look a different team," Johns enthused. "They look a completely different team."
Gould was equally impressed.
"Nothing about Canberra's season has made any sense until now," Gould said.
"I wouldn't compare him to Cameron Smith.
"But he is as important to the Raiders as Cameron Smith is to Melbourne.
"Raiders fans get excited.
"From the time he took the field his team just looked more relaxed."
With Hodgson starting the game on the bench, Canberra trailed 12-4 when Hodgson entered the game in the 25th minute.
But he wasted no time to make his impact, setting up a try for Josh Papalii within two minutes of hitting the ground.
The Tigers went to the break leading 12-10 and Blake Austin had a forgettable first half.
Both of the Tigers' tries were leaked down his edge while he also had a spell in the sin bin.
The Raiders scored first through Joey Leilua but then came two Tigers' tries in the space of three minutes to Chris Lawrence (11th) and Corey Thompson (14th).
When Austin was binned the Raiders looked to be in big trouble but Hodgson's arrival made such a difference.
Another clever piece of dummy half work from Hodgson then put the Raiders in front for the first time when he threaded a hole for Joe Tapine three minutes into the second half.
Leading 16-12, Hodgson then played a hand in another try with a superb short side raid ending with a try to Nick Cotric.
Hodgson was again the master of creating Tapine's second try to make it 26-12 heading into the final quarter.
Even when Hodgson left the field late for a well deserved break, the Raiders just looked so much more comfortable and in control then they have been all season.
CANBERRA 48 (J Leilua 2 J Tapine 2 B Austin N Cotric L Knight M Oldfield J Papalii tries J Croker 6 goals) bt WESTS TIGERS 12 (C Lawrence C Thompson tries E Marsters 2 goals) at Campbelltown Sports Stadium. Referee: Gavin Badger, Grant Atkins. Crowd: 10,237