Jayden Hodges has his eyes on the prize in the Hostplus Cup this year.
The 29-year-old has never won a premiership in Cup or the NRL but is hopeful a switch to the Townsville Blackhawks in 2023 will help deliver that elusive trophy.
Hodges has played at Mackay Cutters and Northern Pride in Cup, and for the North Queensland Cowboys and Manly Warringah Sea Eagles in the NRL.
He has enjoyed plenty of successes during his career, but as he starts to move into the final years of his rugby league, he knows time is running out for a premiership.
“As I’m getting older, I have an urge to play in finals and win a premiership and I feel like I can do that with the ‘Hawks,” Hodges said.
“I haven’t done that in Cup yet. It would mean a lot. That’s what everyone trains for, is to get a premiership.
“You look at blokes who have won it, like the Norths Devils who have won it a couple of times recently, and you see them standing there in October holding the trophy… it’s one of those things I want to do.
“Personally, I’m up for the challenge. It’s going to look different each week in terms of the Cowboys and their allocations to the 'Hawks and things like that.
“It’s a little bit out of my comfort zone but I get the best out of myself when I’m out of my comfort zone.”
Hodges’ move to Townsville came about when it was clear his time with the Pride was done. He said once he heard about the offer from the Blackhawks in December, he had to make a quick decision and before he knew it, he was heading south.
The Cairns product already knew both coach Aaron Payne and football operations manager Adrian Thomson and is very familiar with Townsville, having lived in the town while he was in the under 20s system.
He settled into pre-season well but has noticed the smaller squad, given the new feeder club agreement with the Cowboys, which will see a larger number of NRL fringe players go back to the Blackhawks this year.
The arrangement has also seen a number of players leave the club, with only five new signings for season 2023.
But, while the hooker is still getting used to the smaller squad, he is excited to see how the Blackhawks fare this season.
“It’s definitely going to be a challenge but for a player like myself, if I’m playing in the Blackhawks, I know I’m going to be in a team with fringe NRL players or close to playing NRL,” Hodges said.
“It’s a smaller squad so training is a bit different. But everything we’re doing, we’re learning all the calls, shapes and structures based off what the Cowboys are doing.
“As the season is coming on, we’re going to be doing a bit more with the Cowboys and get a bit more exposure from that first grade environment.”
While the Blackhawks navigate their first season under the new affiliate system, Hodges’ personal goals are a lot more straight forward.
With that premiership trophy in mind, he is taking each week as it comes and doing everything he can to play a part in the push for grand final day.
“I just want to stay healthy for the full year,” Hodges said.
“I know if I can do that, everything will fall into place. I have to stay healthy, stay fit and everything else will sort itself out.
“As I’m getting older, it’s not as easy. I’m not 21 anymore, jumping out of bed the day after the game. I have work commitments and family commitments, but you want to make it worth it.
“I want to stay healthy, stay on the field and I’ll be confident we can be playing September footy. It’s a matter of staying focused and staying positive and knowing when you do get the opportunity, you just take it.”
Townsville Blackhawks 2023 gains and losses
Josh Abbott (RLTD), McKenzie Baker (Newcastle), Pat Gallen (Redcliffe Dolphins), Jayden Hodges (Northern Pride), Harry MacQueen (RLTD)
Joe Boyce (retired), Oscar Carter (work commitments), John Cullen (RLTD), Kalifa Faifai Loa (retired), Justin Frain (Northern Pride), Edene Gebbie (PNG), Mitchell Grimes (RLTD), Kayleb Milne (released), Aaron Moore (Central Queensland Capras), Jaymon Moore (Northern Pride), Faron Morris (RLTD), Sam Murphy (RLTD), Shaun Nona (retired)