Blow as Raiders lose $4m of their roster
POLEAXED by a crippling injury toll and State of Origin commitments, Canberra will be without a massive $4.2 million of their salary cap when they run out against Canterbury on Saturday.
The Raiders' disastrous run of recent injuries got a whole lot worse on Monday with confirmation star dummy half Josh Hodgson will be sidelined for between six to eight weeks with a broken thumb.
Hodgson's injury adds to a growing toll that also includes John Bateman (eye socket), Jordan Rapana (PCL) and Joey Leilua (neck).
On top of that, Jack Wighton, Nick Cotric and Josh Papalii have been lost to Origin.
It means Stuart will be without seven of his top 13 against the Bulldogs, accounting for almost half of the club's $9.6 million salary cap.
It further highlights just how tough this time of the season can be for the top clubs.
On Monday both Canberra and South Sydney were forced to apply to the NRL for special salary cap dispensation just so they can field full squads in this weekend's split round.
While the Rabbitohs have been granted approval to consider three players from outside their top 30 squad, the Raiders have requested to call up two rookies for cover.
Young hooker Tom Starling is set to get his club debut off the bench as a back-up to Siliva Havili in Hodgson's absence.
But a defiant Stuart has called on what remains of his patched-up squad not allow the luckless run to ruin their top four chances.
"I don't know how we handle it," Stuart said.
"You saw with the Roosters last week, they went into the game resting Cooper Cronk and then lost Luke Keary to concussion in the opening 10 minutes and got 38 points put on them by Newcastle.
"Now Newcastle played extremely well but you cannot ignore what those two players mean to the Roosters.
"In our situation, we have seven starting players not available. But in our next six weeks of football we need to bunker down and get through it any way we can so we don't jeopardise our chances at the back end of this competition.
"We have had a great start to the year, now we have to show what our club is made of."
After a terrific start to the season, the Raiders have now lost their last three matches against the Roosters, South Sydney and North Queensland.
Hodgson's absence is a huge loss and especially disappointing after the Englishman missed more than half of last season because of an ACL knee injury suffered at the 2017 World Cup.
"Losing Josh last year cost us a spot in the semis," Stuart added, "that is how important he is to our team."