Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan says Trent Hodkinson is aware he is arriving in the shire purely as a back up option after the Sharks announced the signing of the former State of Origin halfback on Monday.
Hodkinson was released from the final year of his contract with Newcastle to join Cronulla on a one-year deal. The 29-year-old has played six games for NSW as well as making 156 first grade appearances since making his debut with Manly in 2010.
He switched to Canterbury in 2011 spending five years at the Belmore club before traveling up the M1 to link with the Knights. But despite heading to the Hunter as the incumbent NSW halfback, a mix of injury and poor form saw Hodkinson left out of Nathan Brown’s side at times last season.
Hodkinson will add depth in the halves for Cronulla with Flanagan planning to start the season with 2016 premiership-winning halfback Chad Townsend alongside new signing Matt Moylan at five-eighth.
But with only former under-20s star Kyle Flanagan as an option to cover for the first choice pair, Flanagan swooped for Hodkinson. His signing also allows Flanagan more flexibility in his backline should injury hit Valentine Holmes, allowing Hodkinson to slip into the No.6 jumper should Moylan or Josh Dugan be required to shift to fullback.
“The opportunity to sign Trent materialised when it became obvious he was going to negotiate a release and his addition to our squad will add to our depth and experience in the halves,” Flanagan said.
“He’s fully aware he’s coming here as a back-up but these days you need a real competitive 30-man squad with four halves. But not only that, he fits our club in that he is a quality person off the field, someone who can enhance our community programs, while his leadership and experience will help with the development of our young halves Kyle and Jack Williams.
“Plus Origin is sure to cause some challenges with Holmes, [Wade] Graham, [Andrew] Fifita, Dugan and Moylan all possibly missing, with our depth and experience crucial during that period of the season.
“Trent has had some recent injury issues but I believe we have the best high-performance staff in the NRL and we will work hard on getting his body right and getting him on the field.”
Hodkinson is expected to start training with the Sharks this week.
“I’m happy to be here, to be making a fresh start and I’m ready to get stuck into it,” Hodkinson said.
“Whatever Flano and the coaching staff need me to do, I’m happy to do it.”
The Sharks took part in a three-day camp at Terrigal last week but are back in the shire to prepare for their first trial game against Manly on February 17.