Star Newcastle signing Trent Hodkinson believes he will revel in greater on-field freedom afforded him by new coach Nathan Brown in the NRL this year.
Brown, who was an assistant to NSW State of Origin coach Laurie Daley last year, has already indicated a desire to use the Blues halfback in the same role he played against Queensland – on both sides of the ruck.
Former Canterbury half Hodkinson was instrumental in breaking the Maroons’ eight-year reign in 2014, and is excited to again be in a system designed to cater to his strengths as an on-field general.
“That was the difference that I felt. During Origin I was able to roam across the park and obviously at the Bulldogs I was stuck to one side, which can limit your chances at times,” Hodkinson told AAP.
“I feel as though I play my best footy when I’m getting my hands on the ball as much as I can.”
The 27-year-old has yet to train with his Knights teammates as he continues a long recovery from a wrist injury that stopped him from helping the Bulldogs in last year’s finals series.
A meeting with a specialist next week will decide whether he can participate in next month’s All Stars match in Brisbane.
“Hopefully he gives me the all-clear to start getting amongst it with the boys out there. I’m still isolated, fitness-wise, conditioning and whatnot,” he said.
While he was unable to prevent Queensland from regaining the Origin shield last year, the former Manly playmaker believed leading his new team back up the NRL ladder was the best way to ensure he retained his NSW berth.
“Coming to a new club, I want to try really hard and help this club move forward, get some more wins on the board and go further into the season than last year,” he said.
“Obviously Origin is a goal down the track but firstly I’d like to start on a high for the Knights and put some good performances in early in the year for them.”