Wiser Raiders won't be caught sleepwalking against Knights

Canberra co-captain Josh Hodgson said the Raiders can't afford to continue to play catch-up football if they are to overcome Newcastle on Friday night at GIO Stadium.

Poor completions resulted in a heavy defensive workload in the first 30 minutes of last week's clash with Melbourne, leaving the Raiders fighting an uphill battle against one of the best front-running teams in the Telstra Premiership.

Hodgson said an intense video session earlier this week rammed home the message of what the Raiders need to do against the physical Knights pack.

"Last week we didn't have enough aggression getting off our line, especially early in the game and that allowed the Storm to get out to a lead," Hodgson said.

"That start probably killed us for the rest of the game because they're always going to be a tough side if you give them a start like that.

"We didn't realise we were paddling a little bit and not getting off our line defensively until we looked at the video this week."

Hodgson poured cold water on the much-anticipated battle in the middle between Josh Papalii and new Knights recruit David Klemmer, saying the Raiders will need to hunt as a pack.

Raiders prop Josh Papalii.
Raiders prop Josh Papalii. ©Scott Davis/NRL Photos

"Papa is an Origin front-rower and he's our leader," Hodgson said.

"I often say to him 'we need you today mate'. He's a world-class player so whenever you have somebody like that in your side he's going to be your go-to man in the middle in terms of getting you going forward.

"One-on-one I don't think he has to worry about Klemmer. When Papa's on he's pretty tough to stop. He's like a little rock."

The Knights have lost Connor Watson (knee) and replaced him at fullback with Kurt Mann, ensuring the Kalyn Ponga halves experiment will continue.

"Kurt Mann is 'Mr versatile' and played everywhere," Raiders skipper Jarrod Croker said.

"I don't know what his preferred position actually is, but I know he's played some fullback before, so I am sure he will slot straight into that role.

"I am sure it's a massive loss for them. I am pretty sure Kurt Mann is a quality player as well. Connor is a bit of a spark but Kurt will do the job for them fine."

While line-speed has been a big talking point at training this week, the Raiders have also focused on their left edge defence this week after Storm winger Suliasi Vunivalu scored three tries in the first half.

Croker backed those around him to step up on Friday against Newcastle's talented trio of Jesse Ramien, Shaun Kenny-Dowall and Sione Mata'utia.

"They (Storm) scored one off an early kick, which we've worked on during the week, one they stripped us for numbers and another I was in the middle of the field so we were short," he said.

"I'm not concerned with it. I'm comfortable with our defence and we've worked on it, but I'm really comfortable having Jack (Wighton), Elliott (Whitehead) and Nick (Cotric) with me."