Competition - NRL

Round - Round 01

Teams – Raiders v Panthers

Date – 5th of March 2016

Venue – GIO Stadium, Canberra ACT

Photographer – Mark Nolan

Description –

Baptiste relishing more minutes

Raiders hooker Kurt Baptiste may force his way into the starting line-up this weekend as the club’s injury toll worsens.

Injuries to Blake Austin, Aidan Sezer, and Lachlan Croker in the opening two rounds of the competition has seen starting hooker Josh Hodgson slot into the halves, with Baptiste coming on to fill the hooking role.

The 25-year-old has relished the chance to spend more time on the playing field, and he says the rotation of halves pairings hasn’t hindered his game.

“It’s been really good. [In] the last two games, the halves have got injured early and I’ve had to come on there earlier than I’d expect, but it was good to get more minutes,” said Baptiste.

“We’ve worked through the preseason with all those halves so it’s not too hard for me to get out there. I’ve trained with them all preseason. Those halves work well together and I just work off the back of them.”

Word is circulating that Hodgson may be shifted into the halves for this weekend’s clash with Newcastle, which would see Baptiste start in the number nine jersey.

“He can play anywhere, Hodgo. He showed how good he can be at half as well. It’s been good how Hodgo has just stepped in there, and we haven’t lost too much there.

“I’m happy wherever Ricky wants me. I’m not sure what’s happening this week – I’ll leave that up to Ricky and the coaching staff.”

The Green Machine will look to continue their strong start to the season this weekend where they will start as favourites against the Knights.

“It’s obviously good to get the two wins, but we’re not getting ahead of ourselves. It’s only two games, there’s plenty more games to come.

“We’ll focus on this weekend and the Knights. They’ll be ready to play – their first home game so they’ll put in a good performance for sure.”

Baptiste said the visitors will be looking to the bench forwards to put in another strong performance after a stellar start to 2016.

“The bench forwards, they’ve been massive for us,” said the Queensland product.

“They’ve been working off the back of the starters there that have really put a good platform there for us. Sia [Soliola], Jeff [Lima], and Vaughany [Paul Vaughan], they’ve really stepped up the game there, and been really good for us.”

Baptiste and the Raiders will look to make it three from three on Saturday at Hunter Stadium.

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