Rugby League

Kurt Baptiste confident he can fill void left by Josh Hodgson for Raiders

It's a scenario the Canberra Raiders are untested at this year - life without Josh Hodgson. 

But bench hooker Kurt Baptiste is confident he and recalled rake Glen Buttriss can hold the fort while the English international is injured, starting with Monday night's must-win home clash against Wests Tigers.

Given Baptiste's only starting game in his NRL career was in his debut season with Brisbane, the Raiders have opted to recall Glen Buttriss to start at No.9 in his first NRL game since round six.

Baptiste is averaging about 25-30 minutes a match and the Raiders felt promoting Buttriss, who has been in strong NSW Cup form for Mounties, was the safer option. 

But with Hodgson expected to miss one to two weeks with a high ankle sprain suffered in last week's loss to North Queensland, the pressure is on Baptiste and Buttriss to deliver.

Hodgson has played every game in his debut season since making the switch from Super League club Hull KR, and statistics prove how influential he has been. 

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In his first season in the NRL, the Raiders have outscored their opposition 331-303 when the 25-year-old has been on the field. But when he's sitting on the pine, the Raiders fall to a 130-150 deficit. 

Baptiste's speed out of dummy-half has made an impact off the bench, but there's no doubt the Raiders forwards have lacked the same punch when Hodgson has been given a rest. 

It's a match the 10th-placed Raiders can't afford to drop if they are to keep their finals hopes alive.

"If he [Hodgson] doesn't play it'd be a big loss for us because he's been one of the better players all season," Baptiste said. 

"If he's out we're just going to have to get on with the job, look forward to this week and hopefully get a win without him. 

"He does a lot well for the team and has been great all season."

Plagued by shoulder injuries at Brisbane, Baptiste was released by the Broncos at the end of 2012 and spent the following year playing Queensland Cup.

In 2014 he was handed a lifeline by Raiders coach Ricky Stuart, and played five games in the back end of the season when injuries struck the team. 

Although yet another shoulder injury that required surgery ended his season, Baptiste showed enough to convince the Raiders to offer him a new two-year deal. 

Having begun this year as Canberra's fourth-choice hooker, Baptiste forced his way into the side through strong NSW Cup form and has played 13 games off the bench. 

"I've come a long way since last year, being injured and [as a result] it was a slow start to this year," he said. "I've slowly worked my way back into the team and doing my best.  

"Obviously coming up against [Tigers and NSW hooker] Robbie Farah, he's one of the best hookers in the game, so it's a huge challenge."

THE JOSH HODGSON EFFECT 

Raiders season score when on field: 331-303

Raiders season score when off field: 130-150

Percentage of mins played: 69.6%

Percentage of Raiders points scored when on field: 71.8%

Percentage of Raiders points conceded when on field: 66.9%

Percentage of Raiders points scored when off field: 28.1%

Percentage of Raiders points conceded off field: 33.1%

(stats courtesy NRLcom Stats - the official statistics of the NRL)

MONDAY 

NRL round 22: Canberra Raiders v Wests Tigers at Canberra Stadium, 7pm

Tickets available from Ticketek 

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