TRENT Hodkinson starred in Sunshine Coast’s stellar debut Queensland Cup season last year. And now the Manly halfback finds himself in a two-way tussle to wear the Silvertails number 7 jersey in the NRL this year.
Hodkinson is going head-to-head with New Zealand half Kieran Foran for the vacant playmaker role left by former Sea Eagles skipper Matt Orford.
The 21-year-old played most of Sunshine Coast’s season last year as he worked his way towards a first grade start under Manly coach Des Hasler.
With Orford now playing in the British Super League, Hodkinson and Foran are vying to play alongside experienced pivot Jamie Lyon.
Hodkinson said he was happy with his progress this pre-season and was looking at pressing his claim for a spot in the side in next weekend’s trial against the Warriors in New Zealand.
“Training’s going really well, I’m really happy with how far I’ve come,” he said yesterday.
“Nothing’s known with what he’s (Hasler) going to do though.
“Hopefully I can make a mark in the trial in a couple of weeks.”
Hodkinson is facing red-hot opposition in Foran.
The 19-year-old played 10 NRL games in the back-end of last season before earning a Test cap in the Four Nations tournament.
“Foran’s played first grade already and shown potential,” Hodkinson said.
“I’ve just got to trial well and be up there putting pressure on him for the position.
“Nothing’s been said though, so we’re both a 50-50 chance coming into the trial.”
Hodkinson was a standout in the Queensland Cup, guiding Sunshine Coast to a maiden premiership.
He was widely tipped to be named the competition’s player of the year after his outstanding early-season form.
“I think Q-Cup was a really good, tough competition,” he said.
“I believe it’s helped me a lot. You’ve got to be switched on to play up there. There’s guys of all ages in the competition and it’s helped me mentally as well.
“I was obviously training down here (Manly) and travelling up there so I was sort of doing my apprenticeship behind Orford at the same time.
“The opportunity to play first grade has finally come and hopefully I can build on last year.”
With Orford leaving the nest, Hodkinson has been without a father figure to help him in his playmaking role.
But the Cabramatta junior says the transition has been seamless as he looks forward to another successful year.
“It hasn’t been too bad, to be honest. There’s more opportunity now. He’s been missed but every-one’s jumped on board and is ready to go into the 2010 season,” he said.
“I want to play first grade this year and it would be a bonus to start there.
“But I won’t be disappointed if I’m at the Sunshine Coast again. I don’t mind having a run up there.”