TRENT HODKINSON is determined to put his injury-riddled season behind him and make a play for a starting halves spot at Canterbury.
Hodkinson declared he would be fit for the start of this season after shoulder and knee operations crippled his previous one, restricting him to six games. He could only watch as the Bulldogs marched towards an unlikely grand-final appearance led by scrumbase pair Josh Reynolds and Kris Keating.
''It was frustrating,'' Hodkinson said. ''I was quite excited to start the season with 'Dessie' [coach Des Hasler] coming over and playing some good footy under him. It was hard and I would have preferred to have been part of it. If I didn't get injured, who knows I might have been able to go all the way with them, but I was very happy for the boys and there was a great vibe around the place.''
Hodkinson, 24, had hoped for a joyous reunion with Hasler, with whom he spent one first-grade season at Manly in 2010. He started last season in the No.7 jersey but his year failed to kick into gear as he struggled to fully recover from off-season surgery on his left knee, which had been reconstructed in 2008. The Cabramatta junior lasted four rounds before injuring the medial ligament in his other knee.
Hodkinson added just 28 more minutes in the top grade via two starts from the bench before he was struck again by injury, needing a partial reconstruction to repair his shoulder, which he dislocated playing the NSW Cup in an attempt to increase his match fitness in July.
''I was coming into the 2012 season not 100 per cent but still able to do everything,'' he said. ''For my knees, the shoulder injury was a blessing in disguise [as it gave] them a rest. In the end the coaching staff just said to call it a year and get me fixed. They are feeling good now and even little things like walking up the stairs at home is not as bad as it was.''
With Reynolds and Keating entrenched in the halves, Hodkinson - off contract at season's end - knows he faces an uphill battle if he is to dislodge the duo before Canterbury's round-one match against North Queensland. His shoulder rehabilitation limits his training but he expects to join the full squad after Christmas and will be fit for the club's first trial against Newtown on February 10.
''It's going to be tough because the boys had a good season,'' Hodkinson said. ''I'm going to have to prove myself again and go into the trials with everything I've got.''