Sport

Hodgson and Smith ready to hook in

Josh Hodgson will be key to Canberra's ability to break through the Storm.
Josh Hodgson will be key to Canberra's ability to break through the Storm. LUKAS COCH

RUGBY LEAGUE: Canberra's Josh Hodgson has history in his sights as he looks to pull off an NRL premiership-Four Nations double by the end of the year.

The 26-year-old from Hull will go head-to-head with Melbourne Storm No.9 Cameron Smith, arguably the best dummy half in the world, at AAMI Park tomorrow for the ultimate prize - a place in next week's NRL grand final against either North Queensland or Cronulla.

Hodgson and Smith will lock horns again later this year in the Four Nations in the UK but for now their focus is on leading their sides through to the grand final.

The Raiders rake has been a revelation since Canberra negotiated his release from Hull KR last season.

He will be an instrumental player for the Raiders, having overcome a badly sprained ankle to play in last week's 22-12 win over Penrith.

His darts out of dummy half can break up Melbourne's defensive wall and get the Raiders' offence running early.

Smith identified Joseph Leilua and his right-side wing partner Jordan Rapana as the Storm's danger men, along with Hodgson.

"Those two (Leilua and Rapana) have just about been unstoppable. They got us a few times about six weeks ago (Canberra won 28-8 in round 23) and Leilua was dangerous every time he touched the football,” Smith said.

"Josh Hodgson had a fantastic year in the No.9. He directs a lot of their play from dummy half and he loves to run the footy himself.”

The Queensland and Australian hooker said Melbourne had benefited greatly from their week off, as their rivals had a torrid 80 minutes last weekend against Penrith.

"You like to stay away from those big collisions and we're all feeling pretty fresh even though Craig (Bellamy) had us play a game simulation at the weekend,” he said.

Canberra, which has enjoyed fanatical support, will confront a sea of purple from a sell-out crowd, with no AFL game in Melbourne tomorrow.

Smith anticipated the Raiders would try to drive their way through Melbourne's middle third.

"We struggled against them a few months ago when they came through the middle,” he said.

Topics:  cameron smith, canberra raiders, josh hodgson, melbourne storm, nrl finals



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