Hooker Contenders

Hooker Contenders

Of all positions, hooker is arguably the most hotly contested position at the club with no less than five players vying for the two spots on offer in the top 17.

It is worth noting as well that the Raiders are fielding just the one reserve grade team this year, that being Mounties in the VB NSW Cup.

Let’s take a look at the contenders:

Josh Hodgson

After travelling over 10,000 miles from the north of England to the capital of Australia, Hodgson didn’t come to Canberra to play reserve grade and he is determined to work hard to ensure this.

Born and bred in Hull, Hodgson rose to become captain of his local side, the Hull Kingston Rovers after breaking into the top grade in 2010. 

In his five years at the club, the rugged hooker established himself as one of the side’s most integral members scoring 37 tries in his 125 appearances.

Whilst Hodgson will head into 2015 in a confident frame of mind after picking up Hull KR’s Player of the Year Award and breaking into the national side, he is under no illusions that he will be a walk up start to the Raiders number nine jersey.

He candidly admits that the NRL is the best rugby league competition in the world and is determined to earn his stripes throughout the pre-season and during the trials, in order to win over his new coach, team mates and club members.

“It was a proud moment to pick up both the Player of the Year Award and Player’s Player awards at the Rovers and to have represented England in the recent Four Nations tournament,” Hodgson said.

“Whilst that gives me some confidence, at the same time it's a fresh start at Canberra and a blank canvass so to speak. I know that I have to work hard to make a good impression because I’m not expecting any favours.”

Glen Buttriss

Buttriss has been the club’s premier hooker for the last five years however he faces the most intense competition of his career to retain his beloved number nine jersey.

The wholehearted hooker put years of injury misfortune behind him last year and went on to play in every game of the Raiders’ 2014 campaign; the highest number of games Buttriss has ever played in a season.

By the sheer amount of time that Buttriss was able to spend on the field last year, devoid of injuries that have hampered his progress in years gone by, his numbers improved considerably from 2013.

The Cootamundra Bulldogs junior averaged more minutes in 2014 which saw him contribute to more try assists, line break assists, tackle breaks, offloads as well as averaging more tackles, an impressive 30.7 per match – the second highest in the club behind the herculean Shaun Fensom.

Buttriss displays a quick pass from dummy half coupled with a marvellous sleight of hand which enables Canberra’s forwards to get on a roll and his halves the necessary space to create havoc for opposition defensive structures.

One of the biggest improvements in his game under Stuart has been in the kicking department. By way of comparison, Buttriss registered 4 kicks for 104 metres in 2013, however he took his figures out to 30 kicks for 839 metres in 2014. What these figures don’t portray is the artistry of some his short kicks, many of which contributed to tries or repeat sets.

CLICK HERE to read Buttriss' season review and statistics from 2014. 

Josh McCrone

The ultra-competitive Josh McCrone is being groomed as a super-sub for 2015; a player brought on to lift the tempo of the play in favour of the Green Machine.

It is a role that McCrone is well versed to play and it will allow his energy, fitness and creativity to be put to good use from dummy half, as he so well for the periods of 2014 in which he occupied this duty.

If injuries strike in the halves, the Raiders are fortunate to have the option of calling on McCrone, especially with the depth the club now enjoys in the hooking department, however Stuart is keen to use McCrone primarily as a hooker.

The 26 year old is the most durable player at the club having not missed a game in four years and has played his heart out for his beloved Raiders on each occasion.

Amidst the increased competition for spots in the halves and at hooker this year, McCrone has upped the ante in pre-season and is ranked in the top three for the 1200 metre run and in the bench press for the backs.

CLICK HERE to read McCrone’s season review and statistics from 2014.

Kurt Baptiste

After coming down to the Nation’s Capital on a one year deal, Kurt Baptiste broke through for his club debut and did enough in his five appearances to earn a two year contract extension, keeping him at the Raiders until 2016.

Originally stuck behind Glen Buttriss, Matt McIlwrick and Josh McCrone in the pecking order for dummy half duties, Baptiste played the majority of 2014 for Souths Logan in the Intrust Super Cup.

Baptiste would prove to not only be consistently among the Magpies' best, but among the best in the entire Intrust Super Cup. His form was rewarded with selection for Queensland Residents against the NSW Cup Representative Team in what was a curtain raiser to State of Origin Game Three at Suncorp Stadium.

With his glistening form hard to resist, Stuart selected the 23 year old to make his Raiders debut against the Wests Tigers in Round 16.

In his five matches for the year, Baptise proved to be impressively sharp with his service out of dummy half, creative with the ball in hand and with a clever kicking game to boot.

CLICK HERE to read Baptiste’s season review and statistics from 2014.

Mitch Cronin

Cronin is an unknown commodity at hooker at the NRL level but he is a player of immense promise nonetheless.

The 22 year old was a product of the Raiders’ previous relationship with the South Logan Magpies and has been a part of the club’s NRL squad for two years since graduating from the National Youth Competition at the conclusion of the 2013 season.

Cronin played his junior football at fullback or at five-eighth however the coaching staff believe that he will best benefit the first grade side at hooker.

Aerobically, Cronin is one of the fittest members in the squad and he brings an elusive running game and underrated kicking and passing skills out of dummy half.

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Author: Simon McGuinness I Twitter: @Simon_mcg1