Hodkinson puts his hand up as Sharks goal kicker
Trent Hodkinson is not only applying a little heat over team selections for the Cronulla Sharks halves positions, he has the torch well and truly lit to be the main goal kicker as well.
The Sharks lost their No.1 goal striker James Maloney on the off-season but have gained two competent shooters in Matt Moylan (Penrith) and Hodkinson (Newcastle).
But in the interim period before they signed on to Shane Flanagan's squad, Chad Townsend and Valentine Holmes had been putting in the practise sessions with the kicking tee.
It's a four-way tussle and a real dilemma for Flanagan, who well knows the value of an accurate goal kicker. The Sharks maiden premiership win in 2016 was by just two points over Melbourne Storm (14-12).
"I'm keen. I'm always keen. It's something I enjoy doing," Hodkinson told NRL.com after he kicked 2-3 in Saturday's 30-14 trial game win over the Manly Sea Eagles at Southern Cross Group Stadium.
"It is another string in my bow and it's also very important in the modern game to add those two points.
"Look, I enjoy goal kicking so if this team wants me to do it, then I'll do it."
Hodkinson has an accuracy rate of above 80%. In his two seasons with the Newcastle Knights, he was 83.93% (47/56) in 2016 and 80.70% (46/57) in 2017.
Moylan's last full season as goal kicker was 2015 (71.43%) before Nathan Cleary took over in 2016-17.
Holmes was 83.33% in 2017 for the Sharks but that was after only attempting 12 shots at goal and landing 10.
Townsend has only been called on to kick 16 goals over the past two years, while Maloney was absent on Origin duty or injured, and landed eight. He shared the kicking duties at the Warriors in 2014 with a 53.85% average (14/26).
Alongside an accurate boot, Hodkinson showed the skills needed by a creative half against another of his former clubs in Manly on Saturday. He sent a well-directed grubber through traffic in the 66th minute for his left-side winger Edrick Lee to pounce on and score Cronulle's fifth try of the evening.
Hodkinson, at No.6, played only the second 40 minutes of the game, alongside rising star Kyle Flanagan at No.7.
But it's been a fairly whirlwind month for Hodkinson, first being released from the final year of his Knights contract, and secondly being courted by both Manly and Cronulla, before signing with the Sharks a fortnight ago.
"I was just happy to get out there and have a run. I've been here for only two weeks now," Hodkinson said, not wishing to delve too much into his departure from Newcastle.
"I'm just trying to work on those combinations here every chance I get. I'm extremely happy to be at the club – it's a happy environment; I know a lot of the boys here; and I'm happy to be back living in the Shire."
Hodkinson, who turns 30 later this year, formerly lived in Cronulla while playing with the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs.
This is now his fourth NRL club but his 156 games – along with two seasons with the NSW Origin side (2014-15) and the 2014 grand final with the Bulldogs – gives him plenty of big-game experience.
It's the sort of pedigree that could earn him a spot at five-eighth or halfback for the Sharks' round one encounter in the 2018 Telstra Premiership against North Queensland in Townsville on March 9.
"Of course I'd like to be starting in round one. Everyone does. But if I can keep playing some good footy then we'll see what happens from there," Hodkinson said.
Next stop is Cronulla's final trial against Wests Tigers at Campbelltown on Saturday. Flanagan is expected to annouce his side on Tuesday or Wednesday.