© AAP Image/Darren PatemanTrent Hodkinson playing for Newcastle in 2017.
Former NRL halfback Trent Hodkinson has given a damning account of his time under Nathan Brown at the Newcastle Knights, branding it a "toxic environment"
Hodkinson was dropped by Brown midway through the 2017 season, just over a year after arriving from the Bulldogs. He opened up on the ugly process of falling out of favour at the Knights on The Horo-Scope podcast, speaking with former NRL forward Justin Horo.
"The second year (in Newcastle) came around and I had one of the best pre-seasons I'd had, leading into that season," said Hodkinson, renowned as an NRL nice guy.
"Fittest I've ever felt. I lost a heap of weight, bunkered right down on my diet and everything.
"I started the year all right, and I think it might have been early in the season I got brought into the coach's office and he said to me, 'I want you to go back to [NSW Cup] and work on your confidence.'
"I was like: 'Oh, OK' . I think he felt the pressure and had to make a big call. Unfortunately for me, I took the fall for where we were at the time."
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Hodkinson said that his exile dragged on far longer than expected; first with no explanations, then with media leaks.
"I thought I'd go back for a couple of weeks and get my confidence back, which I didn't really agree with, but two weeks rolls around, nothing said," Hodkinson said.
"Four weeks, six weeks, didn't hear a thing. Walked past each other, nothing was said. Ten weeks rolled around and I was just going, 'What's doing here?'
"In the meantime, there were certain things getting leaked to the media - the local media up there - that I wasn't too happy about. I know for a fact that it was coming from him.
"After that 10 weeks rolled around, I said, 'I've got to remove myself from this environment'.
"It got quite toxic up there, with the 'he said, she said'. It wasn't a fun place to be around. So I started looking elsewhere, and got my manager to.
"I wanted to stay, but it got to the point where it had just gone on too long . it takes its toll on you."
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Hodkinson got a move to Cronulla - the only thing that broke the ice with Brown.
"All of a sudden it was like they were my best mates again," Hodkinson said.
"He [Brown] came out in the papers and said, 'Hokko's had the hardest job of any halfback in the last decade. And I was like: 'Where was that before?'
"If it had have been nipped in the bud early, I would have had so much more respect for the coach at the time.
"It was just a very toxic environment and disappointing."
Hodkinson recently retired due to a chronic knee injury. His 175-game NRL career ended with his original club, the Manly Sea Eagles.
He will be best remembered for leading NSW to a brought-breaking State of Origin series win in 2014. He was the halfback in that team and scored a try to win the decisive second game.
Brown quit as Knights coach towards the end of this season, saying he was not the right man to continue the club's resurgence. He oversaw a brutal rebuilding period from 2016-19 that included two of three consecutive wooden spoons (2015-17).