Hodgson will go for scans but the medicos expect the worst. Moments after hobbling from GIO Stadium, he was seen in the dressing sheds sucking on the green whistle. His teammates couldn’t console their inspirational skipper quickly enough when they caught up at half-time. It was a bitter blow in a heartbreaking 20-14 defeat.
“It doesn’t look good, it looks like an ACL,” Raiders coach Ricky Stuart said.
It meant a battle between the game’s best dummy halves lasted less than half an hour. When Hodgson stopped after being wrong-footed, Smith was the first on the scene to check on his welfare. There could not have been a bigger contrast between the fortunes of the respective No.9s.
When you have been playing the game as long as Smith has, barely a week goes by without setting another milestone. This one may never be repeated. In his 420th appearance, he celebrated a 300th victory. His nearest rival is more than a century of victories behind him.
To further put this monumental feat into context, consider that only 39 players in the history of the game have made 300 appearances.
It was a mark achieved on opposition turf against a Raiders side that had won their three previous encounters.
If there was one moment that sums up his brilliance, it came just before half-time. The Storm were fatigued after a mountain of defence on their try line. They were scheduled for more after conceding a line drop-out. Working the referees as only he can, Smith took an inordinate amount of time to restart play, giving his teammates some much-needed respite.
When it eventually got under way, his restart kick found the sideline to win back possession of the Steeden. It is one of the many ways Smith leaves his imprint on the result.
Nothing seemed to go Canberra’s way. Hodgson was gone and all the luck was with the men in purple. Bailey Simonsson was sin-binned for a professional foul in what was one of the more bizarre rulings of the season to date, for a supposed illegal challenge on Josh Addo-Carr. The Storm scored shortly afterwards in the spot where the Raiders winger would have been defending.
Things got worse for Simonsson when he joined Hodgson on the injured list after suffering what appeared to be a shoulder injury that ended his night prematurely.
And when Elliott Whitehead knocked on in the act of scoring without a single Storm defender in the vicinity, it was clear how this one would pan out.
“We won’t get our heads down, I promise you,” Stuart said. “After that effort tonight, after losing one of our key players, if we lost every other game of the season with the same effort we had tonight, I am a happy coach.
“That’s all I ask, you keep turning up and giving me that effort [of] tonight.”
This was a match where some brilliant football was interspersed with a slew of uncharacteristic errors. Like when Smith dropped the ball cold twice in one game and then unsuccessfully challenged one of the calls.
Some of the best entertainment came from watching the reaction of animated coaches Stuart and Craig Bellamy when their players kept coughing up the pill.
“It’s a fairly ugly game if you’re sitting at home watching it, to be honest,” Bellamy said.
Ryan Papenhuyzen more than made up for such moments with one of the best long-distance tries of the year. The Melbourne fullback fielded an awkward grubber perilously close to the sideline, somehow kept himself in the field of play and then sprinted 90 metres to touch down.
Sadly, Hodgson’s injury overshadowed proceedings.
Adrian Proszenko is the Chief Rugby League Reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald.