Competing reports about whether Josh Hodgson would be with the Raiders for the 2022 season emerged today. But as it played out in the media, the fundamental situation did not change. In all likelihood, Hodgson will not be with the in Canberra next season.
The story got rolling with the Canberra Times reporting that the Raiders were expecting Hodgson at pre-season training this Friday. A report came later in the day from 7News reporter Michelle Bishop that a deal would be done shortly, and that Hodgson would be with the Tigers imminently.
Of course, the issue at hand is the amount of money each party will be paying of Hodgson’s reported 900k contract (which, from memory and rumour is actually more like 750k plus incentives). And what is playing out in the media isn’t so much a changing position, but two clubs trying to make sure they play as little of that money as possible. The Raiders are saying they’re in no rush to see him leave in order to get the Tigers to commit to a greater share of that cash (or even a spare player – Canberra had mooted the possibility of Jacob Liddle coming to the club).
In response the Tigers kicked the tyres on Api Koroisau (who will be at the Panthers next year), and played the waiting game, in the knowledge that the fundamental reasons that the Milk were willing to part with Hodgson hadn’t changed. It had been clear for some time to both Hodgson, and the wider rugby league world, that they’d be happy to see him gone for 2022. In spirit it’s the same game Canberra recently played in bringing Jamal Fogarty to town. You just have to be patient.
There is a potential roadblock in the status of Tom Starling. The Raiders don’t have a top line hooker if Hodgson goes and Starling suffers at the hands of the New South Wales legal system (or the NRL’s integrity unit). But even that doesn’t feel strong enough to save the situation. Hodgson and Sticky’s relationship had deteriorated so substantially over 2021 it feels like a fool’s dream to think it can be saved. Like George Williams, BJ Leilua, and many other players that Stuart has signed the papers on, once that bridge is burnt it stays that way.
Regardless, Starling’s legal situation should be resolved one way or the other well before the season starts (he’s in court next on January 11), so there’s every likelihood that even if Hodgson is spared execution this week, he’ll be given the green light to go as long as Starling is confirmed a go. One only has to remember how long BJ Leilua hang around before his deal was similarly sorted with the Tigers. We even begun speculating as to whether he’d play alongside Curtis Scott in what would have been a hilarious centre-wing pairing. Perhaps we’ll still get to see this next season, only in the Super League.
But I digress. The key fact remains the situation hasn’t changed. The Raiders are still moving on to Starling, the relationship between Hodgson and Stuart is still broken, and Hodgson’s long-term career lies beyond the blue skies and clear air of Canberra. At least until he comes back as an Assistant Coach under whoever takes over from Stuart.
Even as his biggest fan, it appears Josh Hodgson’s time in Canberra has almost settled. It’s only a matter of time.