Hard road to Origin for Hodkinson

Trent Hodkinson is mobbed by Bulldogs teammates Josh Reynolds and Tony Williams. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Trent Hodkinson is mobbed by Bulldogs teammates Josh Reynolds and Tony Williams. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

RUGBY LEAGUE

There was a long stretch of time in 2012 when you would do well to see Trent Hodkinson without a sling on his arm or hobbling around on crutches.

In constant discomfort, with even stairs a struggle to conquer, he even contemplated giving the game away, forced to watch on from the shadows as others starred in Canterbury's run to a grand final.

That the 25-year-old then is even a candidate to be named the NSW State of Origin halfback on Tuesday - let alone the presumptive favourite - is not far short of remarkable.

Two knee operations, two shoulders; it is an effective way to get on a first-name basis with the surgeon but not to launch a promising career to the next level.

"It just went from bad to worse for him that year ... it was setback after setback," said Brett Kimmorley, the former NSW No 7 who was Bulldogs halves coach at the time.

"It was a real downer for him because obviously it was the year the Dogs then made the grand final and the halves were Josh Reynolds and Kris Keating. He was way out of the picture at that time."

If Hodkinson's rise was meteoric, the fall was equally painful.

Lured to Belmore by Des Hasler's predecessor Kevin Moore in mid-2010 after he made a City Origin debut in his rookie season under Hasler at Manly, there were big things expected of Kimmorley's anointed successor.

He joined the Bulldogs on a three-year deal worth $270,000 a season, a fair whack for a then 21-year-old who had, at that point, played all of a dozen or so NRL games.

"He had a pretty quick rise to the top, he sort of came from nowhere and then Canterbury bought him with quite a decent offer," Kimmorley said.

"It was an extremely quick two years of football then, all of a sudden, you get a setback like three or four operations in the space of about six months. It's a fair kick in the guts.

"To be so disrupted - and probably see Josh Reynolds go past him - would have been frustrating. Even the following year [in 2013] he had to work extremely hard to get his position back."

Having done that, should he and Reynolds be confirmed as the Blues' new playmaking pair on Tuesday, it will be the ultimate reward for the Parramatta junior's doggedness, refusing to give in when his body appeared to be.

He credits stem-cell surgery on his knee with reinvigorating him as a first grader and the results are increasingly plain to see, with the Bulldogs out in front on the premiership ladder after 10 rounds and no small thanks to their No 7.

Hodkinson does not have all the tricks but his level-headedness has been key to Canterbury's fortunes.

"I suppose he and Josh are perfect partners because one is enthusiastic and excitable as you get and the other probably as calm as you can get," Kimmorley said.

"They complement each other pretty well.

"He can certainly steer a football side around, kicks extremely well, has a great short passing game and his defence is really good.

"He probably isn't going to win you the game by breaking the line or scoring a wonderful individual try but he's a great chance of building a game plan for you to get you into a good position to win the game with his composure.

"If you talk about Des as a coach, it's high-percentage, low-error football and that's how Trent plays." Kimmorley said.

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