Blake Austin of the Canberra Raiders is hoping to be fit to face the Panthers.
Blake Austin of the Canberra Raiders is hoping to be fit to face the Panthers. DAN PELED

Raiders rocked by another injury blow

RUGBY LEAGUE: The final make-up of Ricky Stuart's Canberra Raiders team for tomorrow's cut-throat semi-final with Penrith is in the lap of the rugby league gods.

English international Josh Hodgson looked a million-to-one to be able to play this weekend after his ankle buckled like plasticine against Cronulla last week.

Along with Blake Austin, whose injured hand was still severely swollen two days out from the club's knockout clash at GIO Stadium with the Panthers, Hodgson will be given until a few hours from kick-off to make the tough call.

To risk playing one key positional player carrying injury is a major gamble in a final.

To risk two could be suicidal.

What more could go wrong for Stuart?

Well, try losing a bench forward to a training accident, which happened when Clay Priest broke his ankle at training.

Hodgson would have to be a long odds to play and if Austin does take the field, his injured hand will face a thorough investigation from Penrith players constantly running at him.

Penrith goes into the clash with its big-name players Matt Moylan, Josh Mansour, Peter Wallace and Bryce Cartwright in dangerous form.

These two teams have an incredible rivalry having met 69 times for 34 wins each and one draw.

Most big clashes are won in the forwards, with the big men laying the platform for the running players, but given the recent form of Canberra's Joey Leilua and Jordan Rapana and Penrith pair Tyrone Peachey and Josh Mansour, they could be the ones who hold the key.

These two wing-centre combinations have been the best in the league in 2016 and their clash tomorrow will be crucial to the result.

Between the four of them they've scored 60 tries.

WAYNE HEMING



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