He said there were a number of sides who he just wasn’t sure what to expect from just two weeks out from the start of the season.
«Certainly their expectations are lower. A few years ago they came out of nowhere playing a different style of football with that big pack of forwards, playing off offloads, playing unorthodox, playing open football, shocked everyone and raised expectations and they found that hard to back up,» the Fox Sports expert said.
«I’ve got them in that bunch of teams that you don’t know what they’re going to do — like the [North Queensland] Cowboys, I’m not sure what they’re going to do.
«There are sides you look at and go, ‘They’re a top-four side’. There’s a huge bunch of teams I don’t know what to expect and the Raiders are one of those.»
The Raiders’ home crowds last season averaged about 11,800 — down on 2017, but around the levels of 2016 when they made the preliminary final.
There’s already more than 13,000 members signed up despite the NRL’s summer of shame that’s rocked the code during the off-season.
Hodgson said the support wasn’t lost on the players and they wanted to repay that faith.
«We’ve loved it, we love how much support we get and how much they stick by us,» he said.
«That means a lot to you as a player, when the fans stick by you and we haven’t made the semis for two years and the numbers are still high.
«There’s been stages where we haven’t been going good and they’ve still turned up — whether it’s red hot or freezing cold.
«I’m really grateful of everything they do for us and they stick by us because we certainly don’t take it lightly as players.»
Hodgson said there’s been a relaxed air around Stuart during the pre-season, which he felt was a good sign — if he was «barking» then there’d be a problem.
Stuart’s brought Michael Ennis on board as a coaching consultant to work with Hodgson, while Andrew McFadden has also joined the Raiders as an assistant coach.
«To me he looks more relaxed this year. I think that’s through us giving him confidence through what we’ve been doing in training,» Hodgson said.
«We’ve been training really well and the new additions we’ve had into the side have certainly pushed the squad up another level.
«There’s obviously still a lot of work that we need to do. There’s a few areas we need to work on from the weekend, but overall I think he’s really happy and confident going into round one [against Gold Coast].»
Ennis — Raiders’ public enemy No.1 in 2016 when he taunted the fans with the Viking Clap — said Stuart’s passion had been infectious.
To the point where Ennis is now a Green Machine convert.
«I love his energy. It’s really infectious on the club. I obviously worked with him before and know his passion,» he said.
«A lot of people only see him on a Saturday night in a press conference, or in the coaches box, or down on the ground.
«When you get there you just see how invested he is in Canberra, the community, the club, it makes you want to work harder, makes you want the team to have success.»
David Polkinghorne covers the Canberra Raiders, local rugby league, Canberra Cavalry, racing and cycling, along with every other sport, for The Canberra Times.