Written by Oliver Kellner-Dunk
Contracted until the end of the 2021 season, 30-year-old Canberra Raiders hooker Josh Hodgson is closer to his last game then his first and Raiders fans may soon start to wonder how they’ll fill the void if the England International moves on.
The player to step up may already be at the club, in 22-year-old Tom Starling who already has some first grade experience under his belt.
Starling is currently living the dream, as he has wanted to play in the NRL for as long as he can remember.
“Growing up rugby league was pretty much my whole life as a kid I’d take a footy everywhere, I loved watching it playing it and going to games. So that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do is to be a NRL player.” Starling shared with Everything Rugby League.
In 2015, Starling would start to make a name for himself by winning the S.G Ball Cup Player of the Year award after a breakout season at the Newcastle Knights.
He attributes this great season to the support and encouragement received from his Father, who would go to great lengths just to see his son play in the flesh.
“That season of SG ball my dad had a stroke and he would get special permission to get out of hospital and come watch me play, so that gave me a lot to play for and I’d be trying my hardest to make him proud each game because he was fighting to come and watch me play every weekend.”
Over the next three seasons Starling would remain consist for Newcastle in the Under 20’s, Intrust Super Premiership.
However, in 2018 he was left without a contract extension and the Knights’ loss would become the Raiders’ gain.
“I finished the 2018 season with Newcastle and wasn’t told anything by them if they wanted to keep or let me go and eventually found out they signed a couple other hookers through social media so I told my manager to look elsewhere.
“I ended up getting a call from Canberra and I jumped straight onto the opportunity to come to a strong club.”
Last season Starling made three NRL appearances for the Raiders, increasing his first grade experience, which has already began to help him develop and expand his game.
“You pick up little things each game that you can improve on but overall your own style of play was what got you there in the first place so you just have to keep adding on to that and trying to make yourself the best version of yourself.”
Starling has recently been promoted to the Raiders’ top 30 and is thoroughly enjoying his time at the club.
He would love to remain a Raider for the long term and for that to become a reality he must put in the work on the field.
“Canberra is a great club and I’m really happy here but rugby league is a crazy sport and crazy business. You never know what’s around the corner so I just focus on what I can control and making myself a better player and hopefully the rest will sort itself out.”
Keep an eye out for Starling in 2020 as the club will surely want to maintain his match fitness and see what he brings to the table.
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