Hodkinson opens up on year tinged with tragedy
HOW does Trent Hodkinson sum up 2017?
He takes a deep breath and shakes his head. "It's been a tough year."
He's not wrong. First he was demoted from the first-grade side.
That led to widespread speculation around his future in Newcastle, which consumed the local papers for months.
The tragic death of his cousin, Wayde Dunley, who fell from a cliff while on his way to go fishing, and the loss of 15-year-old friend Hannah Rye to cancer has only added to the adversity he's faced.
"We lost Wayde in a tragic accident back in July," Hodkinson said.
"He was my closest mate growing up. It was tough to lose him and I feel sorry for his wife Chelsea and little baby Koa, who is eight months old. We'll try our best to help them out in the future. She's got great support from Wayde's brother Shane and mum and dad.
"It's been a tough couple of months.
"I've been dealt with what I have and I'm just happy to finish the year off now and look forward to a bit of a break and look forward to next season."
Hodkinson captured the hearts of the nation when he took Hannah to her Year 10 formal at Kurri Kurri High School in July.
Last Friday Hodkinson joined hundreds of mourners in farewelling the Knights supporter.
"We created quite a close bond, me and Hannah," Hodkinson said.
"I've lost a friend at the end of the day. It was tough but we all banded together. We had a funeral on Friday and it was a great send-off. I spent some time with the family after the funeral and we'll keep in touch with those guys moving forward.
"It's been a tough couple of weeks but hopefully we played for Hannah the best we could."
Hodkinson is auctioning off his jersey from their last game of the season.
Embroidered with Hannah's name on the front, the money raised from the auction will go to Kick Sarcoma, a foundation funding research into Ewing sarcoma cancer, the illness that claimed her life last month.
"Hopefully we can raise a lot of money," he said.
"Hannah suffered from Ewing sarcoma cancer so the jersey will be auctioned off and all proceeds go to Kick Sarcoma."
It's yet another selfless act from the veteran half.
In a season where he's had so many off-field distractions, it's during the most chaotic period of his life that his football has improved.
Seven games into the season he was punted to NSW Cup before returning in round 17 and finishing the year in the starting side.
"I've come back and I've felt my strongest part of the season was the back end of the year," he said.
"I don't want to let the boys down at the end of the day, so hopefully I made them proud."
Hodkinson's move from Canterbury in 2016 hasn't been the easiest transition.
In a team lacking experience, the 29-year-old has shouldered much of the burden.
Constant speculation around the health of his knees hasn't helped either.
Talk of a move to England has consumed most of the year with the Knights publicly declaring they wouldn't stand in his way to secure his long-term future with another club.
But his heart is in Newcastle.
"That's the first I've heard," he said when asked about reports from the UK linking him to Salford.
"I'm still under contract next year.
"I want to be here moving forward, especially with the younger guys coming through. I know there's going to be some exciting times here at the club and I want to be a part of that.
"As far as I know I'm contracted here for next year and I'm a person that likes to see that out. I'm looking forward to next year."
So what of the arrival of Connor Watson from the Roosters?
Next year they'll have Brock Lamb, Jack Cogger, Watson and Hodkinson battling for spots.
The former NSW No.7 said it's healthy competition the club needs.
"That's what makes clubs successful, competition around all positions," he said.
"It's only going to be a positive for the club. When you've got competition and guys working hard for spots, it's going to make the team go a whole lot better."
The auction for Hodkinson's jersey ends at 6pm on Wednesday, September 6.