When Super League XXVI kicks off later this month, Leroy Cudjoe admits that it will be an unusual sight on 28 March when he catches a glimpse of Brett Hodgson on the touchlines decked out in a crisp tracksuit or wearing a smart business jacket.
“It will be good to see him,” the veteran threequarter says about the pair’s likely reunion.
“It will be a little strange seeing him as a head coach. It doesn’t seem long ago that I was coming through the club to play alongside him.”
Hodgson will write a new chapter in his career when he leads out Hull FC to face his former team Huddersfield Giants at Headingley, after the one-time John Smith’s Stadium favourite was appointed to succeed Lee Radford and Andy Last at the KCOM Stadium.
It is fitting that the former Wests Tigers star should face one of his old sides in his first match back in Super League since he retired in 2013; perhaps even a predestined echo, given his debut for his final club Warrington also came against the Giants after swapping clubs in 2011.
Cudjoe holds fond memories of Hodgson’s arrival at the Giants in 2009. He was an NRL Premiership-winning fullback who, in trading the balmier climate of Western Sydney for the winds of West Yorkshire, lost none of his quicksilver intelligence with ball-in-hand, winning the Man of Steel gong in his maiden campaign.
“We had a good year,” the centre recalls, with the pair instrumental in Huddersfield’s run to the 2009 Challenge Cup Final.
“I was a fullback in my Academy days, so when we signed Brett, I was excited to learn from him.”
Cudjoe further credits Hodgson as helping him secure his position as a Giants mainstay.
“He taught me a lot. Over time, I cemented my position in the team by scoring a fair few tries off Brett’s skill alone. All I had to do was catch the ball and put it down.”
He feels Hodgson will flourish on Humberside, where he arrives having coached Wests’ grade-level feeder team Western Suburbs Magpies.
“Brett was our captain when he was here and a very good one too,” says Cudjoe.
“He’s always been a smart player, a deep thinker of the game. He has a calming influence on people and a good sense of what’s needed at the right time. He’ll certainly get the best out of the players at Hull.”
Cudjoe is the only survivor of that day at Wembley to still be pulling on the shirt for the Giants. Hodgson would correct his loss with Warrington in 2012, but his former team-mate would have to wait until 2013 for silverware with the League Leaders’ Shield.
Given the decade-long gulf in their on-field companionship, Cudjoe feels neither can exploit their knowledge of the other when they meet again.
“It’s a long time since we last played. Brett and I have evolved a lot, so I doubt there’s anything to give one of us the edge.”
Huddersfield have their own new beginnings too, following Ian Watson’s arrival from Salford, and former England centre Cudjoe feels positive for the season ahead, particularly after his first pre-season for four years following an injury-struck run.
“The body is feeling really good,” he adds.
“I’m in the best shape I’ve been for a while. It’s going really well for us; Watto and Greg Brown have changed a lot and the boys are buying into it. We want to be challenging come the end of the year; the talent and depth of the squad is the best I’ve seen us have for a long time, so there’s no reason why we can’t have a good season.”
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