Canberra Raiders hooker Josh Hodgson admits the loss of star second-rower Josh Papalii to a two-game ban is "a massive blow" to the Green Machine's finals hopes.
The Raiders are battling to stay in touch with the top eight and will be without Papalii for two weeks after entering an early guilty plea for a grade two shoulder charge.
It couldn't have come at a worse time with the Raiders gearing up to face the ladder leading Melbourne Storm at Canberra Stadium on Saturday.
The NRL match review committee slapped Papalii with a grade two charge for his shot on former teammate and St George Illawarra fullback Josh Dugan on Friday night.
Papalii was fresh off a State of Origin series win with Queensland and the Raiders were hoping to call on his experience as they kick off a tough run home that pits them against the top team in the competition.
He will also miss their round 21 clash with the South Sydney Rabbitohs, but by entering an early guilty plea Papalii has booked himself a seat on the bus to Cronulla to face the reigning premiers the week after.
Hodgson says the Raiders can ill afford to lose a player of Papalii's calibre at such a crucial stage of the season.
"It's a massive blow. He's a great player for us, he's a massive part of our squad," Hodgson said.
"To back up after Origin the way he did was a massive effort. He's just a big solid kid who always gets through plenty of work, he's very tough in [defence] and he'll always turn it up for you.
"When you've got someone like that in your team, it's tough to replace when he is out. I'm not sure who is going to be there on the edge but I'm sure whoever it is will do a job."
All eyes will be on Ricky Stuart when he names his squad with a host of different faces in the frame to be selected on Tuesday.
Scott Sorensen, Clay Priest and Royce Hunt have all tasted NRL football this year and at least one of them will likely suit up to play the Storm.
Injury clouds are still hanging over Shannon Boyd (knee) and Luke Bateman (cheekbone) after the pair went for scans on Monday.
Hodgson says while the Raiders no longer have the likes of Shaun Fensom or Paul Vaughan to fill the void he's excited to see someone else take their opportunity in a big game.
"We probably haven't got as much experience as we did last year in terms of people haven't got big numbers under the belt for NRL games," Hodgson said.
"We haven't got that but I think we've still got a real lot of quality. As a young kid you've always got to start somewhere. I'm not sure who is going to come into the team but you've got to start somewhere and get that experience somehow.
"It's great to see the people that have been coming in have been doing a great job for us. I thought everyone that has stepped in every week has really done a great job and really filled the roles well."
The Raiders have been riding the NRL roller coaster this season and are faced with the prospect of needing to win at least six of their final seven games to make the finals.
Hodgson says Canberra's forward pack will have to lift against a Storm side stacked with representative stars to give themselves any hope.
The English rake was recently granted his Australian citizenship and knows he'll have to put in a huge effort against Kangaroos hooker Cameron Smith.
NRL ROUND 20
Saturday: Canberra Raiders v Melbourne Storm at Canberra Stadium, 5:30pm. TV time: Live on Fox League. Tickets from Ticketek.