Rugby League

Newcastle Knights halfback Trent Hodkinson expected back for trial against Canberra Raiders

Newcastle recruit Trent Hodkinson is on track to make his return from a badly broken thumb in the Knights' final trial against Canberra next week.

There were fears Hodkinson could miss the start of the NRL season after the injury he suffered in what would be his final appearance for the Bulldogs in round 25 last year.

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While he has been restricted to limited training for the bulk of the pre-season, Hodkinson resumed full contact last week and Newcastle coach Nathan Brown is hopeful his No.7 will make his club debut when the Knights play in Orange next Saturday.

The Knights will not risk Hodkinson in the trial if he is in any discomfort but Brown was certain his halfback would be fit to play in the club's round one match against the Titans. 

Ready to return: Trent Hodkinson may debut for the Knights in a trial against Canberra.
Ready to return: Trent Hodkinson may debut for the Knights in a trial against Canberra. Photo: Jonathan Carroll

"He has resumed full training and contact," Brown said.

"He has been doing a bit of team training for the last few weeks but he has kept out of contact. Now he is allowed to do full contact. It appears to have been a successful surgery because it was a big surgery - there was 4½ months recovery. 

"It was one of those ones where we couldn't afford him coming back too early and having trouble with it."

Hodkinson's partnership with Jarrod Mullen is vital for the Knights long-term success. Despite his injury setback, Hodkinson is viewed as a captaincy candidate following the departure of Kurt Gidley.

"It appears it has gone really well which is pleasing because he is a player who brings some stability to the team, which is obviously important for the club not only now but moving forward," Brown said. 

Jaeleen Feeney is expected to get first crack at Newcastle's vacant fullback position with Sione Mata'utia partnering Dane Gagai in the centres. Brown said he would rely on the squad's youth to take them forward.

"They are very eager to learn," Brown said. "There aren't many older players, but the older players are buying into where we are going to go. All the younger guys are very, very impressionable. Their discipline is very good. Their want to get better and their will to learn is very good.

"At Newcastle the challenge is starting from the bottom. 

"We finished at the bottom last year but we have a lot of younger players who have come in for older players.  

"We haven't been that active in the player market. It's more young kids who have been in the Newcastle juniors who have been in the system for the last five or six years."

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