Newcastle halfback Trent Hodkinson could be on the move back to the club where his NRL career began with his management meeting with Manly officials on Tuesday to discuss his future.
The signing of Mitchell Pearce and Connor Watson and the emergence of young halves Brock Lamb and Jack Cogger over the past 12 months has left the former Origin playmaker on the outer at the Knights.
One of the club’s most popular and respected players, Hodkinson has a year to run on his contract but is now well down in the halves pecking order with his NRL career in limbo.
In a sign of how far the former NSW Blues Origin playmaker has fallen, he was Knights captain less than 12 months ago.
But as it stands right now, he will be struggling to force his way into the club’s Intrust Super Cup starting side next season given the club’s depth in the halves.
In contrast, Manly is without a recognised half to partner skipper Daly Cherry-Evans after the Eagles released Blake Green from the final year of his contract to join the Warriors on a lucrative deal.
They fell short financially in their bid to lure Pearce to the northern beaches and initially looked at Lamb as a potential Plan B.
But Newcastle officials have made it perfectly clear neither Lamb or Cogger will be granted a release from the final year of their contracts to go elsewhere.
“We want to retain them long term and have not developed them over the past few seasons just for the benefit of another club,”a Knights source said.
It is a totally different story with Hodkinson.
He also has a year to run at the Knights but the club won’t stand in his way if an opportunity presents itself provided a financial deal can be reached.
Prior to the signing of Pearce, Hodkinson was the club’s highest paid player on a back-ended contract worth around $800,000 in his final year.
Significantly, it’s understood he was pre-paid a large chunk of his 2018 salary early to free up more money in next season’s cap.
It now improves his chances of finding a new club and keeping his NRL career alive.
If Hodkinson can strike a deal with the Sea Eagles, it will be a back-to-the-future scenario for the 29-year-old, whose NRL career kicked off at Brookvale back in 2010.
He played 24 games for the Eagles that season, playing predominantly alongside Kieran Foran in the halves, helping steer Manly to the finals before shifting to the Bulldogs for the next five seasons.
He joined the Knights in 2016 and has played 40 NRL games but despite being captain last season, found himself on the outer when he was dumped from the top grade after seven rounds before figuring again at the back-end of the season.