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How Stuart beat Roosters and ex-Raider to snare Hodgson

Ricky Stuart was sizing up Josh Hodgson for the lime green No.9 jersey for two years before finally bringing him to Australia.

But if another Canberran-turned-coach had his way, Hodgson would've landed Down Under in red, white and blue.

Former Raiders, Eels and Warriors prop Justin Morgan coached the future English international for two years of first grade at Hull KR, having already mentored him through juniors as far back as under 8s.

A £15,000 transfer fee brought the pair together again in 2010-11 after Hodgson first debuted with local rivals Hull FC.

By 2013 both Stuart, then at Parramatta, and Trent Robinson had Hodgson in their sights, with the latter sounding out Morgan about the English rake's NRL potential.

“I knew the Roosters were keen on signing him and I spoke to Trent Robinson about him a couple of times and Robbo was keen on signing him before he went to Canberra," Morgan, now the Kiwi Ferns coach, told

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“I had spoken to Hodgo and said Robbo is a good coach and so forth, but he ended up going to Canberra.

"I thought he would go okay but he is getting to levels now where he is in that elite player category.

"He is developing those skills that you only see in the elite players.

"People are talking about him being as influential as (premiership-winning Raiders hooker) Steve Walters and he is."

The Roosters approached Hodgson twice over two years but with Jake Friend winning a premiership as their hooker in 2013, the Raiders held the upper hand when they came calling.

"There was that Roosters interest," Canberra CEO Don Furner recalled.

"His agent told us the Roosters were keen. But being back-up to Jake Friend meant there wasn't a clear pathway to being a first grade hooker.

"We had an opportunity for that and Ricky had done his research on him, so we made it happen.

"There was a transfer to be negotiated with Hull, that meant a few nights back and forth over the phone too to make it happen."

Stuart had been burned by British imports during his ill-fated tenure at the Eels, with internationals Lee Mossop and Gareth Hock regarded as two of the worst signings in a crack field for the Blue and Gold.

Canberra meanwhile had looked first to Brisbane, then North Queensland and then New Zealand as they fished for talent over their first 20 years in the top grade.

Prior to Hodgson, their previous forays for talent out of the Northern Hemisphere amounted to Frenchmen Jérôme Guisset (four games for Canberra in 1999 before a long career with Warrington, Wigan and Catalans) and Dimitri Pelo (four Raiders games in 2012 before linking with Catalans as well).

Before Hodgson had even arrived in the nation's capital, more phone calls had Furner fearing a similar story.

"The real phone call of this whole story was the one that came from New Zealand when he ran through the door," Furner grins, remembering how Hodgson barged through a door during the 2014 Four Nations and straight into internet fame.

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"I hadn't met him at that point and I've got media ringing me and 'I'm thinking jeez what have we got here?'

"Everyone else is ringing me saying 'he's not like that'.

"We'd just had some off-field issues, but we talked it through when he arrived in Canberra and he was a leader here within his first six months at the club.

"He was speaking up in the sheds at halftime, taking charge. Now he's our co-captain for the grand final."

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Canberra Raiders respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.