Blues’ Origin hopefuls Chad Townsend and Trent Hodkinson are set for a halves showdown as the Sharks travel North to take on the Knights in Newcastle.
In a story that shows the contrasting start to the seasons of both men, the once-unheralded Townsend arguably leads the race to the NSW Blues’ 7 shirt – in front of none other than his opposite number this Sunday.
While performances aren’t measured only on tries scored, such is an indication of the change in Townsend’s style and influence on the play, the 25-year-old has crossed for 4 four-pointers inside the opening nine rounds, making this already his most successful season to date on that front.
Townsend also leads the Sharks in linebreak assists (6), and is second only to Michael Ennis' try assists with 7 (Ennis, 8).
Townsend’s work with the ball has been overshadowing his sensational efforts done in defence, with the half showing on countless occasions already this season that he can more than hold his own against bigger opposition edge-runners.
Having made 25 one-on-one tackles already this season (second most at the Sharks), the young halfback has proven he more than has the makings of a genuine Origin half contender.
Townsend returns to the Sharks fold this week having last Sunday represented City Origin in Tamworth.
While the City side ran out eventual 44 points to 30 victors, Townsend had a keen role in a host of tries, and looked up to the task of higher honours – should the call come.
Hodkinson meanwhile – the Blues’ incumbent half – has struggled to assert his dominance in a Knights side upon his arrival to the club, which has been found lacking experience and a touch of class at key moments in games this season.
With an injury to regular halves partner Jarrod Mullen, Hodkinson has been left with the task of leading his side’s charge thus far, inside the opening 9 rounds played.
Inexperienced backs to his outside, Hodkinson has been a shadow of the influential half which NRL spectators came to know in recent seasons now gone.
If the Knights are to fire this weekend, expect the majority – if not all – of the attack to come from the work of Hodkinson.
The Knights ‘7’ will not only be out to see his side to a much-needed win, but also hopeful of turning in a performance worthy of that a recall to the Origin arena.
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