England’s forgotten man Josh Hodgson in his new club colours

There was a lot of talk surrounding the choice of hooker for England at the recent World Cup.

Former Ireland international Michael McIlorum got the nod and started in four of the five games, with Sydney Roosters’ Victor Radley featuring as a makeshift rotation in some of those.

The form nine of Super League at the back end of last season, Salford’s Andy Ackers, was also in the squad. He featured off the bench in the group stage win over France, and then played from the start against Greece, scoring two tries.

There had been calls prior to the tournament for St Helens legend James Roby to reverse his decision to retire from international rugby league, such was the lack of a stand-out option.

Missing Hodgson

Hooker has not been a problem position for England for many years.

That was partly due to the growth of former Hull and Hull KR hooker Josh Hodgson, who has been playing in the NRL since 2015.

Canberra Raiders paid a transfer fee for his services and he became a regular, making 24 appearances in his first season and helping the Raiders to a top-two finish the year after.

Hodgson was a regular for the national team from 2014 onwards, and started in four games at the 2017 World Cup at a time when the likes of Daryl Clark, Paul McShane and Danny Houghton were at the peak of their powers.

Unfortunately for Hodgson, major injuries in the last few years have cost him the chance to play more.

His 2022 campaign was cruelly ended after just one appearance, suffering an ACL injury in the round one win over Cronulla Sharks.

Knee injuries cost him the start of the 2018 campaign and the end of the 2020 one too, but his impact in the NRL was such that Canberra made him co-captain.

After eight seasons with Canberra, he moves on to Parramatta for 2023 – having signed a two-year deal.

Now 33, Josh Hodgson has more than 270 first grade games under his belt, including 138 in the NRL.

That includes playing in the 2019 Grand Final, which Canberra lost to Sydney Roosters.

Rejecting retirement on medical grounds

He could have retired after his latest injury, but is focused on nailing down the starting nine jersey at Parramatta, having spent some time playing loose forward at the back end of his Canberra stint.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Hodgson said: “The easy road would have been to retire. At 33 after my third knee people would’ve pulled the pin, getting a pay out to sit on the beach and drink a beer instead of working your ass off.

“In 2021 I was playing good footy, but I was playing 60 minutes at loose forward after starting the game at nine.

“I didn’t want to transition into a loose forward. I wanted to be one of the best nines in the game and I was seeking out a challenge to do that.”

Hodgson helped unveil the new Parramatta jersey as the countdown to the new NRL season continues, with the Eels facing Melbourne Storm in their season opener on March 2.

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About James Gordon 7308 Articles
Love Rugby League editor. Founded the website back in 2005. Worked with a range of clubs and sponsors during that time. Also commentates for BBC.

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