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Alex Mitchell

Raider Woolford continues 'dream' NRL rise

Hooker Zac Woolford has been a key force behind Canberra's charge into the NRL finals. (Mark Evans/AAP PHOTOS) (AAP)

Zac Woolford might have started the NRL season an unknown quantity, but no one among the Canberra Raiders is underestimating the impact their rookie hooker has had on the side.

The 26-year-old joined the club on a two-week train-and-trial from NSW Cup side Newtown as the Raiders sought to replace injured No.9 Josh Hodgson.

Woolford starred on debut in Magic Round with two classy try assists and has only kicked on since, the Raiders winning 11 of 15 games with him as they've stormed home to make the top eight.

He'll now stare down Queensland hooker Harry Grant and the intimidating Melbourne Storm pack when their teams clash at AAMI Park on Saturday evening in clearly the biggest game of his career.

"It's a bit of a dream really, how it all happened," Woolford told AAP.

"I came here and thought if I'd play one game, that'd be a big win.

"I've played 15 now and I'm getting ready for a semi-final, so I can't really believe that at the moment. But at the same time, we get ready for this week and make sure we make a good account of ourselves."

Woolford is one of only 16 players competition-wide to complete more than 300 tackles while missing no more than 17 this season, turning in a stellar 90 per cent tackle efficiency.

But the attacking side of his game is continuing to develop. He now has six try assists, none more impressive than a scything dummy-half scoot on his Magic Round debut to allow halfback Brad Schneider to score.

"Early days, that's all I was worried about - my service and my defence," Woolford said.

"But the boys have been really good, encouraging me to back myself and take the opportunities that I'm given, Jackie (Jack Wighton) and Jamma (Jamal Fogarty) have been really good in encouraging me to play some footy.

"It's just getting that confidence to back myself and play what I see, and I feel I'm starting to do that more and more."

The Raiders certainly head to Melbourne as underdogs but they won't go in lacking belief, with Woolford adamant their best will test any team in the competition.

But to do that he'll have to help limit the ever-dangerous Grant, who Woolford labelled "outstanding".

"He's the benchmark at the moment," he said. "It's red alert when he gets out. We'll no doubt do a lot of vision on him this week and we'll be ready for him.

"We're more than confident, and if we play our footy and do what we do, then we can match with anyone.

"It wouldn't matter who was in front of us this week, we'd be very confident we can get the job done."

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