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Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart says Canterbury Bulldogs trial will determine Josh Hodgson replacement

10 February 2018 7:08 PM
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Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart says the Sunshine Coast trial will show who's the leading candidate to fill Josh Hodgson's shoes.

Leadership will be a focus of the preceding camp, with Stuart adamant his leaders need to go to the next level for the Green Machine to do so as well.

The Raiders fly to the Sunshine Coast on Monday for a pre-season camp ahead of their only trial, against the Canterbury Bulldogs on Saturday.

There'll be special interest in who wears the No.9 jersey, given the knee injury that will rule star hooker Josh Hodgson out until at least July.

Stuart has young dummy-half duo Siliva Havili and Craig Garvey, who have less than 50 NRL games between them, vying for the starting role.

But the halves could also find themselves doing shifts at hooker, while Luke Bateman has also trained there.

Havili's focus has been on his fitness, while Garvey's been learning the Raiders structures.

"They both will show you and me in that trial who the leading candidate is, because that's vital to see what they've got in an NRL trial," Stuart said.

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"I know [Bulldogs coach Dean Pay]'s going to be starting with a very strong side, so will we.

"They're both training very well. Siliva Havili has really worked hard on his fitness because that's his biggest hurdle.

"He's got some great ability as a football player, but he's got to learn to sustain that energy on the field at an NRL level.

"Craig Garvey's been working hard and he's quite a fit young player and now he's learning to get into the processes and structures of our footy team."

Stuart said a big focus would also be on developing his leaders and further immersing the squad in the Canberra culture.

He said the club's leadership group, known as Club '82, held the key to the Raiders going to the next level.

"We're going to be doing a lot of work with our cultural behaviours as a Raider and we're going to be doing a lot of education and development of our leaders in the team," Stuart said.

"If this football team is to progress and go to the next level our leaders have to go to the next level and they've got to be more dominant as leaders."

Stuart said from a "physical point of view" it's been one of the best pre-seasons he's been involved with in his 17 years as a coach, with a number of the squad setting personal bests.

Defence has also been a focus ahead of their round-one clash against the Gold Coast Titans on the Gold Coast on March 11.

While the Raiders had the third-most potent attack in the NRL last season, they conceded the seventh most amount of points.

A lot of their problems came from handling errors heaping extra pressure on their defence.

"We put a big focus on defence this year and the trial will be about players buying into the defensive attitude," Stuart said.

"The other part of it is having a hit-out gets their timing and the collisions get their bodies back into football mode as well.

"I don't pay a lot of attention to results, I pay a lot of attention to individual performance in trials and that's what I'll be looking at again."

Saturday: Canberra Raiders v Canterbury Bulldogs at Sunshinse Coast Stadium, 6pm.

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Source: theage.com.au

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