There’s no denying that the Canberra Raiders have turned their recent form around for the better in recent games, but is it enough to hold them in good stead heading into the finals?
Their real challenge begins this Thursday night against table toppers the Melbourne Storm.
Centre Matt Timoko believes they’ll be up for the challenge in the round 22 opener.
“They’re the benchmark team of the competition and it’s going to be a real tough battle out there on Thursday but we know we prepared well today and I think we’ll go good,” he said.
Timoko has played some more regular minutes over the last couple of weeks and is grateful for his chance in the starting 17.
“I’m feeling really energetic and grateful to be there and taking every week as it goes, opportunities like this don’t always come around so it’s (been) good,” he said.
Timoko is also enjoying playing with reigning Dally M Medallist Jack Wighton who has returned to form since returning from Origin duties.
“He’s one of the better players in our team and I think when he’s going good, the whole team’s going good,” he said.
Wighton’s return to form isn’t the only reason the Raiders have been able to snap a three game losing streak.
According to hooker Josh Hodgson they have made a concerted effort to simplify the game plan and return to basics.
“We simplified it, we had to regroup. There was that point in the year where we had a break in the bye week and it probably came at a good time for us,” Hodgson quipped when asked if the plan was to work harder or enjoy their footy more.
“Everyone had a chance to get away from footy and clear their heads a little bit and regroup and come back with a fresh attitude.
“I think rugby league can be massively over complicated sometimes…it’s a pretty simple game when you’re doing the right things but when you’re not it can seem like you’ve got a million boxes you need to tick and I think we just simplified things a little bit.”
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Despite returning to form, Hodgson knows there is still plenty of work to do if they want to feature in this year’s finals series.
“We’ve still got a lot of work to do, but at the end of the day if you don’t hold good field position, you don’t run out and you don’t make the tackles… you’re going to lose most games, so simplifying it has been a big thing over the last six or so weeks that we’ve been working on.”
The Raiders recent theme of simplicity will continue into this weekend’s match up with the Storm.
“You’ve just got to be at your best. It’s an old cliche but they’ll make you pay for it if you’re off or if you give them too many chances, they’ll certainly make you pay for it,” he said.
“We’ve had some really good run-ins with them before in the past, it’s always a real physical game and I’m sure it’ll be the same again.
“They’ve got a big pack and they’ve certainly got some talent in the side but so have we so it’ll be interesting to see how we go.
“You’ve got to beat the best to be the best.”
This round also carries more weight for Hodgson who is looking forward to the opportunity to show his support for all the women in his life in the Women in League Round.
‘’All the women in your life are always really important to you. Your mothers, your grandmothers, our wives or sisters,” he said.
“I think it’s really important that we appreciate those people…myself especially, my nanna, I’m really close with. Obviously I haven’t seen her for a couple of years now so for me on the weekend I’ll be wearing that (Women In League jersey) for her and my wife.”
When asked if his nanna offers constructive criticism after a game, Hodgson replied,
“Yeah, I don’t answer the phone if we lose.”
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