PNG Test hooker Kurt Baptiste will return to Canberra on a short-term contract as the Raiders’ stocks continue to rise after a cruel resumption to the NRL season.
Offering dummy-half back-up following co-captain Josh Hodgson’s season-ending knee injury, Baptiste will join the Raiders squad later this week after adhering to the necessary COVID-19 protocols.
The 29-year-old played the most recent of his 56 games for Canberra in 2017 before stints with Leigh in the English Super League, then a season each at the Sydney Roosters and North Queensland.
Baptiste was due to play for Easts Tigers in the Intrust Super Cup competition this year before coronavirus forced the cancellation of the competition.
After slipping out of the eight, the Raiders have surged back to the cusp of the top four with four wins from their past five games, including the revival kick-starter over the Roosters in last month’s grand-final rematch.
Ricky Stuart’s men face another stern test of their title credentials against table-topping Penrith at Panthers Stadium on Saturday night.
But at least the Raiders are slowly returning to as close to full strength as they will be this campaign.
Reigning Dally M second rower of the year John Bateman made a successful comeback from two rounds of shoulder surgery in last Saturday’s win over the Cowboys, while prized 2020 signing Curtis Scott returned from an arm injury.
“It’s good to be back. It’s obviously been a tough seven months for me with the shoulder, not only having one operation but having two,” Bateman said on Tuesday.
Scott, Bateman and fellow English international, halfback George Williams, wasted no time forging a potent right-side edge, combining for two tries against the Cowboys.
“It’s good to have those combinations. I knew what Curtis could bring – I watched a lot of him when he was at Melbourne and obviously I played with George a number of times at Wigan,” Bateman said.
The trio will again need to fire on Saturday night if Canberra are to continue their surge up the ladder.
“I’d probably say the Panthers are the benchmark of the league at the moment,” Bateman said.
“I marked in the Panthers game as the one I wanted to be back for. I came back a week early so that helps me get match fitness back.”