MANLY boss Graham Lowe is backing half Trent Hodkinson to steer the Sea Eagles for the remainder of the NRL season after confirming the youngster was heading to the Bulldogs at the end of the year.
Promising young Manly halfback Trent Hodkinson is off to the Bulldogs next season. Picture : BRADEN FASTIER
It is understood Hodkinson has signed a three-year deal worth over $800,000 with the Belmore club.
The Bulldogs made their interest in the City half known early, blowing all contenders away with their substantial offer.
Lowe said the Sea Eagles simply could not match the "big money" on offer with salary cap constraints biting the club.
Not even a predicted salary cap increase of $300,000 per year could have helped the Sea Eagles retain the 21-year-old Parramatta junior.
"We would loved to have kept him, but we just couldn't muck him around and just couldn't match what was being offered, " Lowe said.
"It's really disappointing for us and our fans and for Des (coach Des Hasler). It's really tough for Des having to lose a key player like that. We are just a victim of the circumstances (salary cap) at the moment."
When asked if blooding another option at halfback or continuing with Hodkinson was the best way for the season ahead, Lowe said :
"That's up to Des. Trent's shown this year that he's not only a good player, but a good guy to have in the place. I am confident he will continue to produce the same 100 per cent commitment to the club that he has done so far this year. The guy goes with our absolute best wishes."
Hasler said Hodkinson would now freely focus on his 2010 commitments at Manly.
"It's like the weight is off his shoulders, he was agonising over it and didn't want to go, " the coach said.
Hodkinson's exit means the search is on again for a long-term half solution.
Possible options could include moving Foran into the No.7 jersey, with Jamie Lyon reverting back into the halves. Young Sunshine Coast half Daly Cherry-Evans is also another option.
Meanwhile, Hasler said he would know later this week if Origin pair Lyon and Anthony Watmough will be fit for Saturday night's round 15 match against South Sydney at Brookvale Oval. New Zealand Test centre Steve Matai is definitely back having served a three-match suspension.