New Raiders captain's rise shocks Stuart
He's the man who will lead Canberra into what could be a highly successful year, but some at Raiders HQ never expected Josh Hodgson would be so important to their club just two years into his NRL career.
The England international played six seasons in the Super League before making the move to Australia and in his second year in the NRL led the Green Machine to a preliminary final, finished eighth in Dally M voting and won the Meninga Medal as the club's best and fairest.
On the back of a stellar campaign, coach Ricky Stuart announced his dynamic No.9 would step in as skipper while club captain Jarrod Croker recovers from a knee injury but it's a move Stuart didn't think he would consider making when he first lured the rake to the nation's capital.
"No, I'd have to say I didn't expect him to get to where his standing is in the game today as quick as he has," a frank Stuart said on Friday morning.
Speaking at the club's spiritual home, Seiffert Oval, ahead of their one and only trial against the Knights on Saturday, Stuart said the decision became clear after witnessing Hodgson's rise first hand.
"He's just excelled so much... you come back and see what he does around training and the extra work he does. The amount of individual practice, it doesn't surprise you," he said.
"He's a fierce competitor, but he's really bought into the community, he's really bought into the Canberra Raiders. He and his young family have a great standing in our club already, [despite] being here such a short time.
"For us to make him captain of the club whilst Jarrod's out is a great honour for him. I know he's very proud... I spoke to him about it the other day. Josh has got a lot of belief from the coaches and he believes in the direction we're going as well, so it's a good fit."
Having previously captained Hull KR, the leadership position isn't something that will faze the 27-year-old who said his first goal when moving to Australia was simply to make Canberra a place where he belonged.
"[Initially] I just wanted to come here and be settled and really find a home, because once you've found a home and you're happy in your life outside of footy you tend to be playing your best as well," Hodgson said.
The recruitment of the English dummy-half came at a time when Stuart had already been at the helm for a year, and Hodgson believes he couldn't have timed his move to the nation's capital any better.
"I wanted to come here and be a leader, I think that's something the club needed at that time. There was me and Sia [Soliola] and 'Austo' (Blake Austin) and a few people like that coming in," he said.
"It was very important they had a few strong characters in the group in terms of doing the right things off the field as well."
A long-term injury to Kurt Baptiste has opened the door for former Newcastle hooker Adam Clydsdale to push for a spot on the interchange, with Hodgson claiming he's well in the mix for Round 1 – particularly given utility Jordan Turner is now seemingly locked in a battle with young gun Nick Cotric for the centre spot vacated by Croker.
"He (Clydsdale) is another one who's a great professional," Hodgson said.
"I thought he was pretty unlucky not to play as much last year but Kurt was playing really well. He's a great kid, he'll always keep his head down and keep working hard.
"I'm sure if he gets a chance he'll take it."
This article first appeared on NRL.com