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Poor timing as Raiders recruit Josh Hodgson faces NRL scrutiny

The biggest problem for Josh Hodgson is that he officially became an NRL player on November 1.

The biggest problem for England is that Hodgson's actions have undermined coach Steve McNamara's attempts to instil professionalism and discipline in a squad that is arguably the best to represent the country in two decades and should improve further before the 2017 World Cup.

Bad timing: Canberra recruit Josh Hodgson has embarrassed England and the Raiders with his party prank.
Bad timing: Canberra recruit Josh Hodgson has embarrassed England and the Raiders with his party prank. Photo: Getty Images

The biggest problem for Canberra is that headlines about Hodgson performing a jackass-type stunt as the sun came up in Dunedin on Sunday will prompt some to believe they are about to unleash another troubled soul on a city worn down by the antics of Todd Carney, Joel Monaghan, Josh Dugan and Blake Ferguson.

While some will laugh off Hodgson running through the door of a Dunedin student flat as the type of prank the university city is renowned for, he is a professional rugby league player representing England in the Four Nations before joining the Raiders, with the aim of proving himself in the NRL.

Unfortunately for the 25-year-old hooker, the only thing that most NRL fans - and few others outside the north of England - know about him before he begins his stint with Canberra is that he is the player in the video footage that has gone viral after accepting a dare to smash through the door.

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As he climbed back through the giant hole he had created in the internal door, Hodgson raised his arms in triumph but he is now likely to have his head slumped in shame when he arrives at Raiders headquarters this week to meet chief executive Don Furner and coach Ricky Stuart.

Had he committed the offence nine days earlier, Hodgson might have escaped any disciplinary action, but an NRL spokesman confirmed the integrity unit was now watching closely how Canberra dealt with the matter, as his contract with the Raiders officially commenced on November 1.

If he is in any doubt about the dim view the image-conscious NRL takes of such behaviour, Hodgson needs only to ask England teammate George Burgess about his $10,000 fine and two-match ban for throwing a sign through the rear windscreen of an unoccupied vehicle in Cairns last year.

And not knowing that he was being photographed, or that it would be broadcast to the world, failed to save Carney from being sacked earlier this year by Cronulla after the image posted on social media appeared to show him urinating towards his mouth. 

England officials have compensated the owner of the flat and the $500 repair bill is expected to be passed on to Hodgson. But his actions have caused far more damage than just a broken door.

After being plagued by the off-field problems that resulted in James Graham and Michael Mcllorum being stood down before the opening match of last year's World Cup against Australia and Gareth Hock and Zac Hardaker axed from the England squad, McNamara has been working hard to instil a greater discipline and professionalism among his players this year.

Only two conversion attempts hitting the uprights in last Saturday night's 16-14 loss to the Kiwis at Forsyth Barr Stadium and a controversial 80th minute disallowed try to winger Ryan Hall in the previous weekend's 14-12 defeat by Australia cost England a place in the finals. They have played with a confidence and style not exhibited by English teams since the early1990s.

Yet questions are now being asked by sections of the British media about McNamara's lack of success on the scoreboard as England coach, and Hodgson's behaviour has done little to help as those who missed a Test match described by Peter Sterling as one of the best he had seen only know that squad members were out partying until 8am and smashed up a student flat.

Besides his own reputation, Hodgson - and teammates, including winger Josh Charnley - put themselves at risk of a repeat of the scandals that rocked the England rugby union team on their tour to New Zealand in 2008 when a woman claimed she had been sexually assaulted by four players, and at the 2011 World Cup after photos emerged of visibly worse-for-wear players at a dwarf-throwing contest and allegations were made about the conduct of captain Mike Tindall.

One of the students who lives in the Dunedin flat said that most of the England squad had come to the party, telling Fairfax Media "definitely like 15-20 people" arrived around 4.30am and didn't leave until 8.30am.

In the video, partygoers can be heard chanting "go through the door" before Hodgson runs and shoulder charges through it. 

Landlord Murray Haig described Hodgson as "just a bloody idiot" and took aim at the other England players in attendance.

"Here they are, supposed professional adults setting an example, and they smash a door ... I don't even have students doing that," Haig told The New Zealand Herald.

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