Brits Down Under: Hodgson’s masterclass, Burgess’ brave effort & Whitehead shows durability

Zach Holland

Canberra Raiders came out on top in the Battle of Britain showdown against South Sydney Rabbitohs at the weekend.

Josh Hodgson

If the first half of Canberra-South Sydney was anything to go by then it was a masterclass from the Raiders’ number nine. The 29-year-old proved once again he is the king of the one-on-one strip after his solid defensive work played a huge part in the build-up to his side’s first try of the game. As the Rabbitohs started making their way
downfield, Hodgson was able to expertly strip the ball from Ethan Lowe and give the Raiders solid field position. It would not stop there though as a few plays later, his grubber kick through was collected by Corey Allan but in the process of trying to escape the in-goal area – he was met by the incoming Hodgson who dislodged the ball and allowed Jarrod Croker to pounce with a try. In the 25th minute, the Canberra co-captain made his presence felt again when Cody Walker was able to slip through an open gap but the dynamic hooker was there to stop the Rabbitohs stand-off from collecting the score by ripping the ball away just inches away from the try-line. Overall, it was an incredibly orchestrated game from the Englishman, who overcame a shoulder knock to lead the Green Machine to their first Grand Final since 1994.

Sam Burgess

The 30-year-old will miss out on a Grand Final appearance once again but it was still a brave and strong effort from the Rabbitohs back-rower as his display was reminiscent of the 2014 final where he overcame an injury to put forth an influential display. Now, in the game against Canberra he may not have had the same impact as he did in the final five years ago, but his stubbornness to get back out on the field in the second half, despite suffering a bicep injury in a tackle with Croker was something to be admired as he continued to put his body on the line with some charging runs. It was a disappointing end to the season for a side that fought valiantly throughout the season but in the end, they just could not take their chances when it mattered. The Bunnies captain finished the game with 24 tackles and 133 metres in a bruising encounter. As his season with South Sydney is now at a close Burgess finished with 2,322 metres at an average of 122 per game and 426 tackles in an injury affected season.

Elliott Whitehead

The 30-year-old overcame a knee injury in last week’s game against Melbourne to put in another battling and solid performance for the Green Machine. As mentioned in past editions, Whitehead may not be the biggest carrier of the ball but his work rate and ability to be all over the pitch stands as two of his biggest traits to go alongside being a force in defence.

If you want to see what kind of impact Canberra’s English quartet of Hodgson, Bateman, Whitehead and Sutton have had this season, then you can just see in the numbers with three out of the four leading the way in tackles for the three-time premiership winners. The back-row general has the second most with 750 at an average of 28.8 per
game and is a true testament to his consistency on the pitch. The former Bradford and Catalans star has shown a great amount of durability, playing in every game for the Raiders this season.

Tom Burgess

Even in a losing effort, it was another hard running performance from the 27-year-old, who racked up 101 metres in the game against Canberra. Despite missing out time through either injury and suspension, Burgess finished with the seventh most metres by a Rabbitohs players with 2,319 and the second best average with 115 per metres made game.

As his twin brother George now heads to the Super League and the Wigan for the start of next season, it seems like it is now the end of an era at South Sydney as next year it will be the first time that three of the four Burgess brothers have not played together since 2012. Over the last seven seasons, Tom and George Burgess developed a fearsome and effective partnership in the Rabbitohs front-row with their strength and size becoming a huge factor in their success. There is no doubt they can look back fondly as they earned international call-ups to go with an NRL title win in 2014. Now, going into next year Tom will presumably now look to form a tandem with either Liam Knight or Tevita Tatola going forward as the Bunnies look to come back even stronger.

John Bateman

The 25-year-old is such a hard man to bring down when he has the ball in his hand, despite not being the biggest forward around. The second-rower is great with his feet and has a slick offload ability that allows him to create second chance plays for his side and that showed again in the game against Souths. In a big time effort from the
Raiders, Bateman put in the kind of performance we have just become used to seeing during his first year in the NRL. The former Bradford and Wigan man made 36 tackles (the second most by a Canberra player) and passed triple figures in run metres with 102. As we go into the NRL’s premier showcase, the England international has the third most tackles by a member of the Raiders with 703 as well as the the fourth most run metres at 2,324.

It has been nothing short of an incredible debut season for the back rower as his impact and influence has found its way through the entire Canberra set up and now that the men in lime green have finally ended their Grand Final drought, can Bateman and this vastly improved side go all the way?

Watch NRL and live stream every NRL game to keep up with how the Burgess boys, John Bateman, Ryan Sutton, Elliott Whitehead, James Graham and all the others are getting on Down Under.

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