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Raiders no easy pickings without Hodgson

AAP logoAAP 20/08/2016 By Steve Zemek

Parramatta are preparing to go for the jugular after establishing themselves as the form team of the NRL in the past fortnight.

Ricky Stuart's side achieved a rare feat in defeating the top-placed side two weeks running, with wins over Cronulla and Melbourne.

Not since the Sydney Roosters in 2003 has a side knocked off the No.1 team in consecutive rounds, and it's given them the confidence to turn their attention towards their premiership drought.

The Raiders have gone 22 years without a title and they are the only club not to have made a preliminary final in the NRL era.

After seven straight wins, the Raiders have established themselves as premiership contenders and face teams out of finals contention - Parramatta, Manly and Wests Tigers.

Before their clash with the Eels on Sunday, Parramatta coach Brad Arthur said Canberra were the form team of the competition, even without suspended hooker Josh Hodgson.

"With their roster, they haven't built their performances around one player," he said.

"It would have been ideal to have him in the team but I don't think it's going to matter too much the way they play.

"Young (Kurt) Baptiste will come in and he's nice and fast out of dummy-half as well. I don't think it will affect them that much."

Hodgson has been a driving force behind the Raiders' push into third place this season and was in Dally M contention before he elected to plead no contest to a dangerous contact charge this week.

He made the decision out of concern about the prospect of carryover points costing him a game during the finals.

It's resulted in him being stripped of three Dally M points, which in effect rules him out of the running for the game's most prestigious individual honour.

Stuart is going up against his old side in the GIO Stadium encounter, while prop Junior Paulo faces the Eels for the first time since his mid-season departure from Parramatta.

The Eels will be buoyed by the return of Australian winger Semi Radradra (knee) and hard man Beau Scott.

STATS THAT MATTER

* Canberra is the best attacking team in the competition, scoring the most points (26.9) and tries (4.5) per game, as well as busting the most tackles (31) and making the equal most line breaks (5.5).

* Parramatta have not scored more than 18 points since their round-18 win over the Sydney Roosters.

* Canberra centre Jarrod Croker is six points away from breaking Clinton Schifcofske's single-season club point-scoring record of 245 in 2001.

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