Raiders hooker Josh Hodgson.

Pre-season for every NRL player is a physical and mental grind.

Grueling efforts in the baking hot sun and sauna-like weight room all in a bid to be ready for round one and to still be hopefully be playing when the finals roll around in September.

For Canberra co-captain Josh Hodgson, the toughest part of this off-season had nothing to do with what happened on the field.

Hodgson has made it his mission to achieve everything humanly possible from his career, in the wake of the tragic death of his older brother Nathan just before Christmas last year.

"It was really out the blue, he'd turned 30 just a few weeks before and he'd been struggling with mental health and he'd been in and out of prison and couldn't quite get his life together," Josh said

"For me on a personal level you know, all bets are off - you just be there for your family.

"The club straight away just called me and said, 'go do what you need to do' and get yourself home and make sure everybody was OK.

"It was a shock, but you can take it one of two ways and it's making me strive to do better.

"He was really proud of me and it certainly gives me extra incentive to really achieve something for my career for somebody I love so much."

Entering his fifth year at the Green Machine, his Australian family have rallied around him and helped him through one of the toughest times of his life.

Helped by the balance of his own family off the field, Hodgson knows how lucky he is, working hard throughout his teen years to chase a dream of being on the other side of the world doing what he calls "a paid hobby".

"We know we certainly love what we do and for most of it it's all we've ever known since been small kids ourselves.

"When you don't have it for a little while, like when I was hurt [last season] it a makes you appreciate how much you love it so much."

Hodgson's other great loves away from the game are his wife Kirby and three-old son George and soon to be one-year-old daughter Ivy.  

"We've got a lot of young families down here which is nice because we all mingle pretty well and that's why you do everything in your life, for your family," he said.

"[George] is starting to get there, he says 'Dad go Raiders?' and he asks if he can come in, but I say to him 'ah not today but it starts again soon' I have to tell him that it closes for a while."

The Englishman's standing in the nation's capital after 74 games has been further cemented as he prepares to wear the badge of co-captain alongside Jarrod Croker.

While still finding the honour "surreal", he knows the task of maintaining a high standard this season is the Raiders' biggest challenge.  

"I think that consistency is probably one thing that we're still striving for.

Raiders hooker Josh Hodgson.
Raiders hooker Josh Hodgson. ©Keegan Carroll/NRL Photos

"We've been good in patches, we've done some things well, but you know it's about doing those things well week to week and making sure if you have a bit of an off day that it's not too far behind good."

Hodgson and Elliott Whitehead have paved the way for two more Englishmen to join the club, with Ryan Sutton and John Bateman making a big impact among their new teammates.

"Ryan's a very experienced kid and has won I think two competitions for Wigan and has a big motor which is what we need.

"John's come from Wigan and played at the highest level for England, so he'll slot straight in."

 

Readers seeking support and information about mental health can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.