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Exit over ego: Hodgson won't stay in Starling's way, but A-OK with Sticky

Josh Hodgson concedes his desire to keep playing for another "four or five years" could eventually force him to leave Canberra after dismissing suggestions his relationship with Ricky Stuart is on the rocks.

Hodgson has spoken for the first time since relinquishing the Raiders captaincy last month, a decision he described as "the hardest one I've made in my career".

The 31-year-old hooker returns from a calf injury this Saturday in Magic Round against Canterbury off the bench, taking on a Bulldogs side that recently made subtle enquiries about his contract status after it emerged he had stepped down from leading the struggling Raiders.

Canberra have not entertained thoughts of an early release at this stage with Hodgson contracted until the end of 2022 as one of the club's highest earners.

The English veteran said recent links to Belmore and Brisbane had UK-based family calling him in a panic, though he is realistic about where he stands at the Raiders.

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With 22-year-old Tom Starling emerging as one of last year's bargain buys and schoolboy star Adrian Trevilyan also rising through Canberra's lower grades, Hodgson acknowledges his plans to play well into his 30s could require him moving on down the line.

"I'm not daft, I'm an old bloke, I've been around a while and I've still got four or five good years in me," Hodgson said.

"Tommy's been playing some good footy and if he's the next generation in terms of what they want to bring throughout the club, I'm fine with that.

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"I love this club more than to let my own ego stand in the way. But that was the first I'd heard about it, so it was a shock to me and a shock to the family.

"My first preference would be to spend those first four or five years in Canberra. But my first preference is just to win this week to be honest.

"You've got to do what's best by you, your family and your career. Your career is so short in terms of your life, you can't have any regrets and I've never had any regrets so far in terms of big decisions I've made.

"I've always made the right ones for myself and my family."

In terms of Hodgson's immediate future, he expects to be on the paddock at the same time as Starling on Saturday, potentially as a roving middle forward.

Hodgson declined to elaborate on why handed over the captaincy, referring to a club statement last week that shed little light on the matter either, saying "I don’t need to be starting any more fires" on Wednesday.

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He did however pour cold water on suggestions of a rift with Stuart, or that his representation by de-registered agent Isaac Moses, who the Raiders coach refuses to deal with, played any part in his decision.

"Saying that Stick and I are fighting [or] arguing, when I stepped down it couldn't have been more amicable," Hodgson said.

"We shook hands, had a pat on the back and went about business as normal.

"We've got a pretty good relationship. We know when it comes down to rugby [league] we know business is business.

"That doesn't affect your personal relationship off the field. Rick and I will never blue in a big way. We're all good."

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On giving up the captaincy, Hodgson said: "There were a few reasons, I just felt it was the right time.

"There have been multiple stories as to reasons why: agents aggravating things, all sorts [of stories].

"I'm my own man, I make my own decisions, no one influences me. No one makes my decisions for me.

"It went down as well as it could have with Ricky. We left on really good terms after the meeting."

 

NRL Magic Round Brisbane 1-Day & 3-Day Passes are now on sale with eight massive games across round 10 at Suncorp Stadium this May. With the league's best players all heading to Brisbane, you'd hate to miss it! Tickets at NRL.com/Tickets