Hodgson denies divided loyalties as Wolves await

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The Independent Online

In these days of fixed-term contracts, his situation is hardly unique, but few players' present and future will collide in more pressurised circumstances than for Brett Hodgson today.

Hodgson leads Huddersfield against Warrington in a Super League play-off that will mean elimination for one of them, with the winners one game away from Old Trafford. The 32-year-old Australian full-back has known for months, however, that he will be at Warrington next season.

He claims to have barely given that a second thought and to have devoted all his attention to his remaining days with the Giants. "I'm not going to worry about it maybe being my last game or it being against Warrington," he said. "It's pretty irrelevant."

More to the point for the New South Wales State of Origin player is how much better equipped Huddersfield are this year to progress in the play-offs. Last year, their season ended in anti-climax with defeat by the Catalan Dragons, amid a feeling that the Giants had exhausted their capabilities by reaching the semi-finals.

"This year, it feels better and definitely much better," Hodgson said.

One bonus is Keith Mason's return after a three-match ban and, with no new injuries, Nathan Brown has the dilemma of who to leave out. He knows the Giants will have to be at their best against the two-time Challenge Cup winners, one of whose strengths recently has been the player Hodgson will replace, Richie Mathers.

The former Leeds full-back has been in outstanding form, particularly at Wembley, raising the issue for some Warrington fans of just why it is necessary to replace him with an expensive import almost a decade older. "It's a difficult position for both of us, but we'll each get on with it," Hodgson said.

There is no Richie Myler in the Warrington side, who has picked up a slight ankle injury.

The winners of the match will be a possible choice for St Helens, who will exercise their "club call" option to select their next opponents tomorrow. In effect, Saints will be choosing their opponents for the last-ever game at their historic home, before playing at Widnes next season while their new ground is being built.

Bradford's Dave Halley will miss the start of next season, after being told he will need major surgery on a knee ligament injury.

Sheffield Eagles say that the argument over Sam Barlow playing against them for Halifax in their Championship play-off on Thursday is not over.

Barlow played and scored for Halifax in their 42-16 win, despite his former club's insistence that the terms of his transfer prevented him from doing so. The Rugby League decided they had no grounds to intervene.

"This club will take it on further," said the Eagles coach Mark Aston, who claimed his club had been "stabbed in the back".