NSW match-winner Trent Hodkinson says he doesn’t think for a minute his State of Origin heroics mean a free pass to the Blues No.7 jersey from here on in.
NSW hero Trent Hodkinson suspects he and halves partner Josh Reynolds still have a long way to go before cementing themselves as the duo to lead a new generation of Blues dominance.
Hodkinson’s match-winning try and conversion on Wednesday night will go down in State of Origin folklore and vindicated coach Laurie Daley’s decision to back the Bulldogs battler over incumbent Mitchell Pearce.
After churning through 16 different halves combinations during the Blues’ eight years of misery, it was Hodkinson and his wholehearted Canterbury teammate Reynolds who finally got the job done.
But before Pearce fell out of favour following a boozy night in Kings Cross the week before the Origin I team naming, Hodkinson hadn’t even considered NSW selection as a possibility.
Eighteen months ago, he was nursing another serious knee injury and wondering if he’d ever play first grade again.
The 25-year-old has spent enough time in the casualty ward and in reserve grade to appreciate that his fairytale rise doesn’t mean a mortgage on the No.7 jersey.
“We know it’s not just going to be given to us,” he said of his blossoming partnership with Reynolds, which earlier this year secured three consecutive one-point wins for Canterbury.
“We’ve got to work hard and go back to our club and play some good footy.
“Hopefully we can secure those roles for a while.
“At the start of the year, I didn’t even think about Origin to be honest. I was just thinking about getting on the field and playing good footy for Bulldogs.
“It’s a big dream come true and I have to wake myself up.”
Up against the might of Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk and then Daly Cherry-Evans, NSW’s halves didn’t stand a chance according to some.
But Reynolds says, if these two NSW triumphs have taught him anything, it’s that desire is a more powerful weapon in Origin football than talent.
“When it comes down to it, if there’s a guy there with all the skill in the world coming up against a guy who just wants it more, I know nearly 100 per cent of the time the guy who wants it more is going to get over the line,” he said.
“I’m not a special player. I know that. I’m never going to win a game by myself or do the things Jarryd Hayne does. I just want to do my job.
“I never thought I’d be a part of Origin to tell you the truth … but I think tonight showed sometimes it’s not about the special players.
“For me and Trent to do it together is special.
“But we don’t just want to be here for one series.”
NSW coach Daley suggests it will now take a lot for Hodkinson and Reynolds to be dislodged from their blue jerseys.
“It’s a testament to their toughness and courage,” he said.
“Des (Bulldogs coach Des Hasler) has got those blokes at a level where they know how to win games. They know what they need to bring and they deliver it.
“They were under the pump, but they got their hands dirty and got it done. They were immense.”