NSW coach Laurie Daley says he did not hesitate in sticking with halfback Trent Hodkinson despite seeing the Bulldogs playmaker hooked in Monday’s NRL win over St George-Illawarra.
Hodkinson had another relatively quiet game but kept his spot alongside five-eighth Mitchell Pearce in the Blues team announced on Tuesday for their must-win State of Origin clash in Melbourne next Wednesday.
The Bulldogs trailed by six points when Hodkinson was replaced by substitute Josh Reynolds midway through the second half of their clash against the Dragons but he returned later in the game and iced a sideline conversion.
Daley said it was unfortunate Hodkinson had to make way for Reynolds, but wasn’t at all concerned with his benching.
“One thing that wasn’t picked up was when the game was in the balance still with six minutes to go, they threw Trent back out there because they needed someone who was composed and calm,” Daley said on Tuesday.
“And again, all along, that’s what I’ve said he brings to this team and will continue to do.”
Hodkinson admitted on Tuesday he was disappointed with being substituted, but praised club coach Des Hasler for making a call that changed the match.
“Obviously having Josh on the bench there, something had to give,” he said.
“But it was good when Josh came on. He changed the game and gave us that lift which we needed. It was a call Des had to make and it panned out how it did.
“You’re disappointed for sure. You’re a halfback and you want to be out there for the full 80 minutes but that’s why the coaches get paid the big bucks.”
Asked whether his confidence had been dented, he said: “No, not at all. I’m feeling good, as I did last camp.”
Daley admitted he had thought about recalling five eighth Reynolds, who played all three games for the Blues in last year’s breakthrough Origin series win, for game two but said he wanted a player with Hodkinson’s specific skillset.
“If we wanted and were looking for someone else to do something differently, we’d have that player in here,” he said.
“But we’ve got him for a specific reason, and that’s what we know he brings to the team: his calmness, composure, his direction, his kicking game and his ability to make good decisions.”