CANBERRA Raiders co-captain Josh Hodgson says the team's transformation into the 'bad and lean, Green Machine' has helped spark their defensive turnaround this season.
The Raiders finished 12th in points conceded last year, but only Melbourne has leaked less points this season before their clash with Penrith at Equex Centre on Saturday.
Once the biggest pack in the competition, the Raiders are now the lightest after man mountains Shannon Boyd (Gold Coast) and Junior Paulo (Parramatta) were replaced by smaller players like Englishman John Bateman.
Hodgson said Boyd and Paulo were sorely missed in some areas and the club didn't want them to leave, but said the extra agility in the defensive line had been a factor.
"One of the biggest things is the personnel, for us we've got a smaller team so when we're under the pump we have a bit more leg speed for a little bit longer. It's really helped us in a lot of games this year," Hodgson said.
"It's great having those players and I didn't want either of them to leave. You lose a lot by not having big men as well.
"When you're in the back end of the field and the line's set, you don't have that big bopper to scatter them and get the ruck going again.
"Those two are fantastic players and we didn't want them to go but they have, and this year we've adapted to it really well."
Hodgson said the Raiders defence was "a bit off" in last week's loss to Manly, but the Raiders still enter Saturday's clash in fourth spot with a 5-2 record.
"Scoring's never been a problem for us, just defensively we were a bit off and we need to get back to what we were doing well, which was turning up for each other."
Raiders skipper Jarrod Croker gave a sign of the heightened standards this year when refusing to write off the Manly loss to an off day.
It's quite frustrating to be honest. We speak about not dropping off at all," Croker said.
"There was just a couple of periods and lapses in concentration that really cost us. I'm not using an off day as an excuse at all, we put ourselves under the pump more than anything."