Rugby League


NRL: Raiders prop Jeff Lima sees similarities between Josh Hodgson, Cameron Smith

Canberra Raiders prop Jeff Lima has bestowed the ultimate compliment on hooker Josh Hodgson, comparing the English international to Kangaroos skipper Cameron Smith.

Hodgson looms as a vital cog in the Raiders' premiership ambitions over the next few years after putting pen to paper on a contract extension tying him to the club until the end of 2018.

The 26-year-old arrived in Canberra as a relative unknown at the end of 2014, but stamped himself as one of the NRL's premier dummy-halves with an impressive season for the Raiders last year.

Lima knows what it's like to play alongside a quality No. 9 having been a teammate of Smith's at the Melbourne Storm from 2006 to 2010.

The 33-year-old has also played against Hodgson in the Super League and wasn't surprised with the impact he made in the NRL.

"He reminds of the way Cameron Smith plays, he controls the ruck really well, he's pretty fit and he's pretty vocal on the field," Lima said.


"He's a tough kid and I'm looking forward to playing alongside him this season."

Lima got a taste of what it's like to have Hodgson at dummy-half in last weekend's trial game against the Newcastle Knights in Orange.

Hodgson played more than 100 games for Hull KR in the Super League before he was granted a release from the final two years of his contract to join the Raiders.

He debuted for England at the Four Nations tournament in 2014 and retained his spot for last year's Test series against New Zealand.

Lima went up against Hodgson in England in the first of his two seasons with the French club Catalans Dragons in 2014.

"He's a pretty smart player," Lima said. 

"That's the best thing about Hodgo coming to Australia. He was a good player in England, but he picked up a level when he came over here.

"I guess that's what the coaching staff instilled in him and the ways they have helped his game."

Lima has noticed first-hand how the gap in standard between the NRL and the Super League is widening, but there are still English players capable of cutting it in the toughest competition in the world.

The reputation of the Super League came in for criticism after Australian teams dominated last weekend's world club championship in England.

"There's a massive gap," Lima said.

"The pre-season we had in Canberra was three times harder than the pre-season we had in France.

"The game is getting faster here, but in the Super League, the game is staying the same."

Despite the overall standard of the competition, the Raiders have had success in recruiting from England in the past two years.

Hodgson and second-rower Sia Soliola had immediate impacts last season while fellow forward Elliott Whitehead made an impressive debut in the trial game.

Lima knows the skills Whitehead brings to the table having been a teammate of his at Catalans.

"He's pretty good on that right edge and he's forming a good partnership with Joey Leilua," Lima said.

"He does the little things well, the things only his teammate's see."

Lima is confident he can handle the increased speed of the NRL after playing about 40 minutes against the Knights.

He believes the rigorous pre-season training at the Raiders will have the forwards able to adapt to the reduced interchanges from 10 to eight.

"The intensity at training has been pretty high so it's made it easier for me to settle in," Lima said.

"I don't think it will be too bad.

"If you can punch out 25-30 minutes and get a rest, it's not going to worry the big boys too much."