Red-hot Hosking happy for bench job on Whitehead return

Alex Mitchell |

Zac Hosking (centre) has enjoyed a bright start to NRL life at unbeaten Canberra.
Zac Hosking (centre) has enjoyed a bright start to NRL life at unbeaten Canberra.

In-form Canberra second-rower Zac Hosking will happily shift to a bench role when captain Elliott Whitehead returns from injury, despite a pair of standout performances to start his time in green.

Hosking, who’s quickly won the hearts of Raider fans, has created another selection headache for coach Ricky Stuart after Canberra’s 2-0 start.

Already trying to find space for State of Origin prop Corey Horsburgh after English import Morgan Smithies made the No.13 jersey his own, Stuart must also choose between Hosking, Whitehead and Hudson Young for two edge roles.

Hosking has delivered two tries, two try assists, run for 86 metres per game and made 72 tackles – but the 27-year-old acknowledged the skipper would be hard to hold out.

Whitehead, who is dealing with a calf injury, has yet to play this season.

“Elliott’s experience is invaluable,” Hosking said.

“He’s going to come straight back into the side, whether he’s starting and I’m on the bench – or I’m starting he’s on the bench.

“I’m sure Ricky will choose the best thing for the team, we’re not selfish people and whatever’s best for the team is what we’ll do and we’ll be happy to do so.

“If I have to come off the bench when he returns, I’m happy to do that.”

Raiders fans stood and applauded when Hosking exited their 32-12 win against the Wests Tigers on Saturday, lauding his versatility deputising at centre in the second half after Sebastian Kris suffered a head knock.

Hosking credited a pair of teammates at Penrith with helping him learn how to play at outside back, having started games there for the reigning premiers last season.

“It’s a really good feeling coming off to applause like that, but if any one of the boys came off at that time … they would have the same reaction,” Hosking said.

“I played a few games at centre for the full game and got thrown there at other times during last year, and got that experience learning off guys like Stephen Crichton and Izack Tago, two of the best in the game.

“I’m happy filling in that role, and it’s actually a bit easier on the lungs out there.

“But I wasn’t the only one – (prop Ata Mariota) went on to the right edge, (Smithies) had to go to left back-row – so that’s what we’re doing for each other.”