Josh Hodgson fronted up to day one of pre-season Raiders training with a spring in his step, a world away from the Wests Tigers' Concord base to which he had been incessantly linked this off season.
The former co-captain presented for physical testing with most of the main squad on Friday, while compatriots Elliott Whitehead and Ryan Sutton were both hopeful they would still be calling Hodgson a teammate next season.
It's the strongest indication yet the Englishman will be wearing green in 2022, to serve out the final year of his contract with the Raiders before seeing out the remainder of his NRL career at another club.
Hodgson had sought a move away from the Raiders ahead of next season, and appeared on the verge of a switch to the Tigers last month before the move stalled.
Wests were unwilling to pay the entirety of Hodgson's 2022 contract, believed to be worth around $900,000, and the Raiders weren't receptive to the idea of chipping in for a player at a different club.
Canberra also still very much needs Hodgson in its playing ranks in 2022 as a foil for young gun Tom Starling, who emerged as coach Ricky Stuart's preferred starting hooker during the second half of last season.
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"Hopefully Josh does stay around, he's a great player, he brings a lot to this squad," Whitehead said.
"He's one of the players you want to play with week-in, week-out. Off the field as well, he's a bit of a joker, he brings the camaraderie here, and on the field he leads by example.
"He does bring a lot to this squad. That's the choice of him and the club, and the way they're going forward."
Hodgson was his typical jovial self at Raiders headquarters on Friday, waving at assembled media and cracking jokes as the players prepared for 1200m running sessions.
He and Starling are now the only two recognised hookers on the Raiders' roster, after the club opted not to re-sign Siliva Havili when his contract expired at the end of last season.
"He's one of our main leaders, even though he's not in the leadership group," Sutton said.
"On the field and off the field he's a really good role model for young kids and me alone. It's a good incentive for him just to really concentrate and he will do ... he's one of the hardest trainers I've ever seen.
"You see more in the media than anything, but he's still here, he's here at day one so it's one of them; what do you believe?
"It's up to him what he does, he's a good man and a really good leader and he knows what he wants in life.
"It's one of those things where you've just got to leave that in the back pocket and get on with it, and I think that's what Hodgo will do."
Friday ended a 10-week hiatus since the Raiders' 2021 season petered out in Queensland, where the NRL had been forced to play the back end of its season to avoid COVID-19 in the lower states.
It also marked new trainer Jeremy Hickmans' first day with the main playing squad, after he replaced Nigel Ashley-Jones as the club's head of physical performance.
"I've worked with Jez [Hickmans] before with England, he was my conditioner at England," Whitehead said.
"He's a great bloke, he knows his stuff. It's going to be a little bit different. In the six years I've been here we kind of got into a routine with Nige, it'll probably be a good change for us as a whole squad."
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