Trent Hodkinson has revealed a few new tricks as he literally kick-started the Bulldogs' flagging attack against the Sharks with his most dominant display in the blue and white jumper since joining the club in 2011.
Playing in his 50th match for the Belmore side since coming across from Manly four years ago, the 25 year-old racked up 18 points from a try and seven goals and also had a hand in two first-half tries in setting up the Dogs' first win of 2014.
The 25-year-old had a near faultless match with the boot, laying on the opening try for co-captain Frank Pritchard, forcing two drop-outs and a goal line error from the Sharks and repeatedly pinning the visitors deep in their own half.
Hodkinson revealed coach Des Hasler had identified his kicking game over the off-season as more crucial than ever to the Bulldogs' chances this season, with the new rule that sees any team which kicks the ball dead give the opposition restart play on zero tackle at the 20-metre line proving itself a game-changer.
“It is a big play now and Des has stressed that,” said Hodkinson, who in combination with five-eighth Josh Reynolds has forced eight repeat sets for the Bulldogs this year, the most of any side in the competition.
“We’re always aiming to land it a metre or two off the tryline now rather than in the in-goal, because if you bite off too much there they can turn it around so quickly now with seven tackles and have you under pressure at the other end of the field.
“It is something we have been trying to work on this year and we have been aiming to get repeat sets. We’re always aiming to start them in their corner and turn them around. We got four or five last week against Brisbane and it was good to keep them under the pump today.”
Hodkinson has also taken a leaf out of Reynolds’s book as he looks to take the line on more in the absence of the departed game-breaker Ben Barba, and the proof was in the pudding when the former City Origin half laid on Chase Stanley’s second try of the night after a long, probing run across field before scurrying across for a meat pie of his own 10 minutes later.
“Josh is more of a ball runner and my role is more to organise and get the good kick in, so I guess it can take the defence by surprise when I take the ball up,” said Hodkinson.
“We complement each other well, and it’s nice when I can take a bit of the pressure off him and add that to my game as well.
“It also makes the job much easier when the big boys are going forward and getting in the right spots. That makes mine and Josh’s roles a lot easier.”
And with the Bulldogs signing Andrew Fifita, the most dynamic prop in the game last week, adding the NSW Origin and Australian forward to a pack already boasting internationals James Graham, Sam Kasiano, Tony Williams, Frank Pritchard and Greg Eastwood, it’s happy days ahead for the halfback.
“The forwards that we’ve got at the moment are sensational. They’re big boys, they’re quite mobile and can play with the footy as well.
“When the boys wind up like they did tonight they’re very hard to stop, and it means I can just do my thing off the back of that and hopefully put the side in a good position.”