Resilient Sea Eagles pivot Trent Hodkinson won’t give up on an NRL return despite another demoralising injury setback.
After coming from the bench in round one, Hodkinson was dropped to the Canterbury Cup and then suffered the latest in a long line of knee issues.
The 30-year-old spent three months out following surgery before featuring for Blacktown Workers against the Rabbitohs two rounds ago – only to dislocate his elbow, forcing him into rehab for at least a few weeks.
Having played just 18 NRL matches in the past two years and without a contract next season, Hodkinson is understandably frustrated but firmly believes he can bring value to Manly's top side.
"Obviously I’m keen to play NRL ... I’m still confident in what I can do and it’s still the goal to play NRL," Hodkinson told NRL.com.
"But first and foremost, I have to do the right things and go from there. It’s just minor niggles that you can’t control. It’s just bad luck. I’m working hard and I’m still really enjoying it."
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In 2014, Hodkinson was the toast of NSW after he famously scored the try and kicked the goal that snapped Queensland's unprecedented eight-year State of Origin reign.
Even he finds it difficult to wrap his head around the repeated injury and selection knockdowns he’s copped since then.
"It’s hard. It tests you mentally," he said. "I’m lucky I’ve got people that are good and support me."
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Still a passionate NSW supporter, Hodkinson was ecstatic as the Blues retained the shield this year.
"I was sitting at home watching and it was awesome to see," he said.
"Being out there is better but it does bring back a lot of memories of the teammates you were alongside at the time. You talk about it amongst yourselves come that Origin period."
When fit, Hodkinson still faces a difficult challenge to crack the NRL again with Cade Cust, Lachlan Croker, Kane Elgey and Dylan Walker viable five-eighth options.
However, the 174-game veteran couldn’t be happier for 20-year-old rookie Cust, who has impressed in his first grade chances after starting the season last in the queue to become Daly Cherry-Evans's halves partner.
"Custy’s been really good. He trained as a half coming through but did a bit of hooker stuff in the pre-season," Hodkinson said.
"He had a great pre-season and got his opportunity at five-eighth. He’s been doing his role for the team perfectly, he’s defending strongly, scoring some tries, setting up a few and kicking to the corners, which is what [coach] Des [Hasler] asked from him."
While Hodkinson hopes to prolong his time in the NRL, he has begun thinking about his post-football options.
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The one-time grand finalist is keen to wade into the coaching realm – but he's content to avoid the hot seat.
"You look at a few head coaches and you sort of don’t want to be there, [but] it definitely interests me, for sure," Hodkinson smiled, adding that he wouldn’t mind beginning with a junior team.
"You have to start somewhere I guess ... I get enjoyment out of working with kids, so we’ll have to see what happens."