Hodgson has become hugely influential for Canberra. Photo: AAP Image/Joel Carrett
Hodgson has become hugely influential for Canberra. Photo: AAP Image/Joel Carrett

‘He’s better than me’: Walters anoints Hodgson

Steve Walters has stunningly dethroned himself as Canberra's greatest hooker by declaring current No.9 Josh Hodgson has surpassed his lofty status.

Once rated the best dummy-half of all-time by former teammate and Test coach Mal Meninga, Walters is considered royalty at the Raiders, where over 228 first-grade games, he played in three winning grand final sides.

In a glittering career, his robust style transformed how hookers played the game, while he represented his state of Queensland and Australia and was also a nomination for rugby league's Hall of Fame last year.

 

Meninga rated Walters as one of the best ever.
Meninga rated Walters as one of the best ever.

 

 

"His defence is close to immaculate,'' Meninga once said, "and I believe he could lead a side at any level of the game.''

Ahead of a must-see finals-series prelude between the Raiders and Sydney Roosters at GIO Stadium on Sunday, Walters has gone where few would dare - or have the credibility to make such a call.

Walters has willingly announced Hodgson is not only a better dummy-half than him, but likened the Englishman's influence on the third-placed Raiders as equal to that of future Immortal Cameron Smith.

 

Hodgson has become hugely influential for Canberra. Photo: AAP Image/David Rowland
Hodgson has become hugely influential for Canberra. Photo: AAP Image/David Rowland

 

"He's a terrific player,'' Walters said of Hodgson.

"He's just as important to the Raiders as what Cameron Smith is to the Storm and to me that sums up what level he is at.

"He's a better player than me.

"He can do a lot more things than what I could. He's more flexible in his role and more versatile than what I was.

"I certainly couldn't do all the things he could do.''

 

Walters was for so long the benchmark for hookers.
Walters was for so long the benchmark for hookers.

 

Reminded by The Sunday Telegraph of how significant his claims were given his elevated status within both the Raiders and rugby league history, Walters said: "He's got a bit more to his game (than me) - and you have to these days.

"Hooker has changed a lot of the last 20 years, so you have to evolve with the times and if you're going to be a key man, you've got to have a few different skills in your armour.

"He's got the same qualities (as Smith). He's got lots of time and he never looks flustered.

"There's a lot of comparisons between those two. They're about the same size, they play a similar sort of game. I think they have a lot of similarities.''

Hodgson's poise, control in attack and influence on the Raiders over the past two seasons is undeniable.

His master class in single-handedly dismantling the Warriors last weekend was one of the best solo performances of the year.

 

The Englishman could yet take Canberra all the way. Photo: AAP Image/Mick Tsikas
The Englishman could yet take Canberra all the way. Photo: AAP Image/Mick Tsikas

 

Walters, 53, said he had met Hodgson, 29, several times and was impressed with him as a person.

He explained that it was in Hodgson's first match back from a knee reconstruction against the Wests Tigers in June last year that left Walters realising how special a player he was.

"When he was out with that knee injury last year and ahead of his first game back, they (commentators) were all saying what a difference he'd make,'' Walters said.

"And in my head, I'm thinking, 'give him a bit of slack he's just had a long time off'.

"But he just came straight back in and played terrific, like he hadn't missed a beat.

"Geez that was impressive.''

 

Even the fans are starting to believe. Photo: Hannah Peters/Getty Images
Even the fans are starting to believe. Photo: Hannah Peters/Getty Images

 

Walters said he was like most Raiders fans believing that 2019 could be the year of the Green Machine.

"You're not going to compete in the comp these days if you haven't got a well-balanced side,'' Walters said.

"The other thing is, if you can't defend, you won't beat the good sides.

"The Raiders have really improved in that area this year. Last year, I think it was nine games they were ahead at the 65-minute mark and lost.

"The difference this year is when they're in that position, they've won seven of the nine.

"It's a little improvement to that area and all of a sudden you get confidence and belief and things seem a little bit easier.

"I think they've got an expectation of themselves also, which is great. They expect to win and expect to play well.

"It's an exciting time for the club.''