Blake Austin of the Raiders could be back from injury this weekend.
Blake Austin of the Raiders could be back from injury this weekend. DAN HIMBRECHTS

Raiders dealt a blow as Hodgson ruled out of Panthers clash

RUGBY LEAGUE: The finals scales have swung Penrith's way slightly with Canberra ruling out classy hooker Josh Hodgson from Saturday's knockout clash at GIO Stadium.

Sportsbet has Canberra as $1.83 favourite because of the home-ground advantage, with Penrith $2 in a game in which both sides will try and out-razzle each other with the ball.

Scans confirmed the English international, who has been in brilliant form for the Raiders, suffered cartilage and ligament damage when he got tangled up with teammate Aidan Sezer in last weekend's 16-14 loss to Cronulla.

Even if Canberra wins through to play Melbourne in the grand final qualifier there's no certainty Hodgson, who is a chance to win the Dally M Player of the Year award, will be fit enough to play.

However, he could be a chance if the Raiders make it to next month's grand final.

Kurt Baptiste is the early favourite to inherit the dummy-half duties but if, as expected, Blake Austin returns from a hand operation at No.6, it would put utility Sam Williams in the mix.

The Panthers had too much for Canterbury last weekend with a thumping win that showed the men from the bottom of the mountain are not just making up the numbers.

Up until their loss to Cronulla, the Raiders had piled more than 100 points on their previous five opponents, winning 10 games straight.

But the Panthers, with coach Anthony Griffin happy for his players to play what they see, have show they can match any side when it comes to throwing the ball around.

Young captain Matt Moylan and Blues Origin winger Josh Mansour have something special going on in the middle of the field that breaks teams open and leads to tries, much like Cowboys duo Johnathan Thurston and Gavin Cooper.

With both sides capable of scoring long-range tries, the emphasis will be on defence and ball control.

But the team that takes the risks and pulls them off will win.