Josh Hodgson is likely to play on Sunday. Photo: Matt BedfordWests Tigers captain Robbie Farah says he has no regrets about helping convince star fullback James Tedesco to backflip on a lucrative deal with Canberra last year even though it risked bruising his relationship with Raiders coach Ricky Stuart.
Farah and Raiders hooker Josh Hodgson are set to face off in one of the most pivotal battles at Leichhardt on Sunday, Hodgson likely to take his place after overcoming a badly corked leg.
Raiders five-eighth Blake Austin will also play his former side for the first time since quitting the Tigers last year, while there will be heat on Tedesco after his decision to renege on a three-year deal with Canberra.
Farah was influential in Tedesco’s decision to stay at the Tigers and the NSW hooker said he was simply doing the right thing by both his club and teammate.
“I thought it would’ve been a shame if he left this club, as a local junior,” Farah said. “I felt with the other blokes we have coming through he could play his best football here, and I think that’s what he wanted in the end.
“It was obviously a long and difficult process for him and I felt I needed to play my part. We’re definitely a better team with him in the side and hopefully he’ll be scoring many tries and tearing teams apart in the years to come in the Wests Tigers jersey.”
Tedesco was able to pull out of his agreement with the Raiders because of the controversial Round 13 rule, which prevents the NRL from registering a contract until that time.
Stuart has backed calls for the rule to be scrapped, saying it puts “immense pressure” on players and is unfair to fans.
“I believe it’s unfair on the fan, but it’s also unfair on the player who has to make these decisions at this time of their season,” Stuart said on ABC radio. “It’s a situation which puts them under immense pressure, to then have to play the rest of the year with their current teammates.”
Stuart reiterated his confidence that Gold Coast Titans half Aidan Sezer would honour his three-year deal in Canberra next year.
“Given what happened to us last year as a club you’ve always got to show concern and there’s always an inkling in the back of your mind it could happen again,” Stuart said.
“But having met the guy [Sezer] and knowing his personality and attitude as I do now, I’ve got no doubt at all he’ll be here next year.”
Hodgson’s recovery would be a boost for the Raiders, given he has been one of their best this season. It appears Kurt Baptiste will be called up as cover on the bench, with Glen Buttriss and Josh McCrone demoted to NSW Cup on Saturday.
Lock Shaun Fensom (ankle) will not play, while winger Jordan Rapana will return from suspension to replace Jeremy Hawkins.
Aside from a big loss to the Roosters, the Raiders have been more competitive than their 2-4 record suggests. But Stuart said they are not content with simply giving teams a run for their money.
“In most games we’ve played quite well, but playing well isn’t good enough – we’ve got to win,” Stuart said. “I never doubt these players with their effort but we’ve got to turn some of our good play into a win; it’s as simple as that.”
NRL round seven: Wests Tigers v Canberra Raiders at Leichhardt Oval, 2pm
Tickets available from Ticketek
TV: Live on Fox Sports
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