Josh Hodgson of the Raiders is carried from the field against the Sharks.
Josh Hodgson of the Raiders is carried from the field against the Sharks. PAUL MILLER

Hodgson facing uphill fitness battle

CANBERRA coach Ricky Stuart could face one of the toughest decisions of his coaching career as match-winning hooker Josh Hodgson attempts to overcome a severe ankle injury to play against Penrith next Saturday.

The Panthers continued their impressive form by bundling Canterbury out of the finals with a high-class 28-12 win to set up a knockout showdown with the Raiders.

Hodgson (pictured) limped out of GIO Stadium in a moon boot on Saturday for scans on his ankle after being carried from the field early in the second half in agony.

The 26-year-old England international's ankle buckled badly as he collided with teammate Aidan Sezer, with the trainer immediately signalling his night was over.

Stuart concedes Hodgson, a strong fancy to carry off the Dally M's best player award, has little chance of playing but if he responds to intensive treatment during the week he will have to make a tough call.

With Blake Austin (hand) expected to be available, Stuart has a number of options to replace Hodgson, including utility Sam Williams or promoting back-up No.9 Kurt Baptise into the starting role.

Stuart told the media he would not play guessing games with his line-up.

"I don't know the extent of Hodgson's ankle injury; we've got to get scans results. I'll name him to play next week, but he's very doubtful,” Stuart said.

Stuart said he would also name Austin in the No.6 jumper and confirm his team later in the week.



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