NRL: Josh Hodgson and Damien Cook set for hooking battle

Steve Walters looks at Josh Hodgson and sees shades of arguably rugby league's greatest hooker.

The Canberra Raiders co-captain is a schemer - "a good reader of the game, he always seems to have plenty of time, always makes good decisions, he's a good competitor".

Josh Hodgson will have a huge impact on Canberra's clash with South Sydney. Picture: AAP

Josh Hodgson will have a huge impact on Canberra's clash with South Sydney. Picture: AAP

Then he turns his attention to Damien Cook. In the crafty South Sydney Rabbitohs rake we have someone with blinding pace - "he's out there and he's at you".

Together they will go a long way towards deciding the result when the Raiders host the Rabbitohs in an NRL top four showdown at Canberra Stadium on Saturday.

And whichever hooker comes up trumps may well stamp their claim as the heir to Cameron Smith's throne as rugby league's premier No. 9.

Raiders coach Ricky Stuart says the individual battle will have a massive bearing on the contest - and in a big game like this, every player on the park will leave no stone unturned in search of success.

Damien Cook is one of the game's best hookers.

Damien Cook is one of the game's best hookers.

"Cook has been very strong for them out of dummy half this season, and you can see he is rolling off the back of their big forward pack getting quick play the balls, giving him some real opportunity at bouncing out and playing some smart footy," Stuart said.

"He is a little bit different to Josh. Josh controls our game and the ruck, where Cook really relies on those quick play the balls and that speed of the game they generate through their big forward pack.

"It'll be a great battle, both very good hookers. For us, Josh has been in wonderful form. He has really been a big part of how we're going this year, [through] Josh's control of the game."

But even then it seems co-captain Hodgson is still battling to win the respect of referees after he was threatened with the sin bin and shooed away from a chat between Jarrod Croker and Gerard Sutton last week.

Raiders co-captain Josh Hodgson is looking to win respect of referees. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Raiders co-captain Josh Hodgson is looking to win respect of referees. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Sutton told Croker only he could be present because he was at the coin toss, so Stuart sought clarification.

As it turns out, "there's no such rule. I think it comes back to how much profile you've got, who they want to talk to," Stuart said.

NRL ROUND 10

Saturday: Canberra Raiders v South Sydney Rabbitohs at Canberra Stadium, 7.30pm. Tickets available from Ticketek.

Raiders: 1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, 2. Bailey Simonsson, 3. Jarrod Croker, 4. Nick Cotric, 5. Michael Oldfield, 6. Jack Wighton, 7. Sam Williams, 8. Josh Papalii, 9. Josh Hodgson (c), 10. Dunamis Lui, 11. Hudson Young, 12. Elliott Whitehead, 13. Ryan Sutton. Interchange from: 14. Siliva Havili, 15. Sebastian Kris, 16. Sia Soliola, 17. Corey Horsburgh, 18. Aidan Sezer, 19. Emre Guler, 20. Royce Hunt, 21. Jack Murchie.

Rabbitohs: 1. Corey Allan, 2. Mawene Hiroti, 3. Kyle Turner, 4. Dane Gagai, 5. Campbell Graham, 6. Cody Walker, 7. Adam Reynolds, 8. George Burgess, 9. Damien Cook, 10. Thomas Burgess, 11. John Sutton, 12. Sam Burgess (c), 13. Cameron Murray. Interchange from: 14. Junior Tatola, 15. Mark Nicholls , 16. Ethan Lowe, 17. Liam Knight, 18. Jacob Gagan, 19. Bayley Sironen, 20. Dean Britt, 21. Tom Amone.