Hodgson still reaping benefits of early start
Canberra and England hooker Josh Hodgson was one of the buys of the year in the 2015 NRL season and heading into 2016 he says his decision to forego an off-season ahead of joining the Green Machine is still paying off.
He's had a reduced off-season again given Test duties against New Zealand, and in a scary sign for opponents says he has a "burning hunger" to improve further and isn't close to satisfied with his efforts in the NRL just yet.
Hodgson made his Test debut for England in the 2014 Four Nations in Australia and New Zealand, and after being knocked out of contention by the Kiwis Hodgson spoke to Raiders coach Ricky Stuart about his plans to head straight to Canberra to get a head start on his NRL career, rather than taking the usual option for international reps of an extended break.
The move paid dividends as Hodgson started every single Canberra game at hooker last season and quickly stamped himself as one of the recruits of the year across the entire NRL, alongside clubmates Blake Austin and Sia Soliola, as well as fellow rakes in North Queensland's Jake Granville and Cronulla's Mick Ennis.
Now heading into his second pre-season at Canberra, Hodgson allowed himself an extra couple of weeks off following his side's three-match Test series in England against New Zealand but has been back in training since early December.
"Yeah I was pretty happy [last year] mate, I thought I picked it up pretty quick and the pre-season definitely helped with that," Hodgson told NRL.com.
"It was a decision I spoke about with Ricky when I first came and I first arrived, that I was just going to come and do the pre-season straight away and not really have a break from the last international tour when we got beaten by the Kiwis which knocked us out.
"I spoke to 'Sticky' then and said I thought it was important to come in and get as fit as I can while I can before my first full season here.
"I think that was a massive decision and a very important one and I think it put me in good stead."
Hodgson has no intention of resting on his laurels though.
"I was pretty happy but there's still a lot of improvement in me," he said.
"There's still very much a burning hunger in me to be even better and be up there competing with the best people in the world and be the best player I can be. I'm my own biggest critic.
"I'll never be happy with my game but I'll be constantly working hard to make sure I'm better each week."
Hodgson said his process of self-improvement isn't so much about setting individual goals but about reviewing everything he does both in games and at training and analysing where improvements might come from.
"I review each week, different options [in games] where I've done something good or where I could maybe have played a different option or taken a different decision on a pass or where I've just lost a tackle where I could have maybe won it back," he said.
"I think it's just about constantly reviewing yourself and reviewing the little things after you've finished training as well because it's all well and good doing the basics when you're training and doing all the team moves but you need to go away and do those little 10 per cent extra basics every day to make sure when it comes to a game you've already done them a thousand times."