Bulldogs halfback Trent Hodkinson says the faith shown in him by NSW coach Laurie Daley and the confidence gained from another Origin camp contributed to him putting in his best club performance of the year against the Storm at Belmore on Monday night.
Hodkinson was pipped for Man of the Match honours by blockbusting young second-rower Shaun Lane but the two combined brilliantly on the Dogs' right edge to carve up the Storm in a powerful opening to the game, with Hodkinson putting Lane over for the side's second quick-fire try at the start of the contest.
Hodkinson also showed a greater willingness to take the line on, running seven times – up on his season average of four per game – and showed great composure in controlling proceedings on the back of the platform laid by his forwards.
After the game Hodkinson said the match was his best club game of the year.
"I think so yeah, I think it was [my best]. Just played with a lot of confidence. I was happy with my game," Hodkinson said.
"It was all about completions and sticking it to them and grinding. We knew it'd be tough for them to keep up with us so I just had to steer the boys around and do the percentage plays right."
Hodkinson said he never doubted he'd be able to lift for Origin if named this year despite earlier admitting his club form had been "below par" at the start of the season. He credited Daley for showing faith in him.
"I never panicked this year; I've copped a bit of criticism and I know deep down the way I can play footy and it just hasn't been going my way early in the season," he said. "I never panicked, I knew we'd come out and play a good game leading into Origin so it's going to help the confidence, definitely."
The halfback said getting named for Origin I may have been the catalyst for his improvement over recent weeks.
"The confidence that I've gained in Origin being around those kind of players and bringing it back to club footy has definitely helped, no doubt.
"Obviously we go into camp, got a big game up in Brisbane. First and foremost get Origin done then come back and bring the confidence and experience back to the Bulldogs and finish off the season strong."
Of the Storm game, Hodkinson said it had been "an unbelievable feeling" to run out in front of a packed and parochial Belmore crowd – the first NRL match the venue has hosted since 1998 and rewarded with a sold-out crowd.
"It was an unbelievable feeling, everyone just got into it. It was a special moment. My first first-grade game here, I think it's the first one in 17 years so it's something we'll remember for a long time," he said.
"You can tell on the bus on the way in everyone was just feeling that energy before the game. The roar when 'Klem' [David Klemmer] was getting it off the kick-off, I can't imagine how he was feeling, he was running 20 metres at a time."
Quizzed on his playing future past this season, Hodkinson said despite reports he has come to terms with Newcastle, nothing has been settled yet.
"It's not too far away. Obviously I've got a couple of options, just got to make the right decision. These things take time. I wouldn't mind getting it sorted ASAP but we'll see what happens.
"There's a few rumours flying around but I haven't agreed to terms with anyone at the moment."