Debut: Vs Castleford (A) 2nd April 1956
Honours: Challenge Cup (Winner: 1957)
It’s a grainy image but if you get the chance to see it, the try that young winger Del Hodgkinson scored as Leeds won at Wembley is the sweetest side step and imperceptible acceleration away that you’ll see, it should be in all the coaching manuals.
The youngest player in a youthful Leeds team that day and with the Loiners holding a narrow 3-0 advantage at the break, a scrum move involving two dummy runners in the 43rd minute, saw Lewis Jones in space. He shipped the ball early to 18-year-old Hodgkinson who stayed close to the touchline, producing a glorious glide inside Barrow full back Joe Ball and dive over for a sublime touchdown, as good as any seen at the Twin Towers. Del had only been in the side a year, spotted in the juniors and given his debut in a 26-15 defeat at Castleford in April 1956. Establishing himself the following season after signing his first professional contract, and seen as the ideal replacement for Halifax bound Drew Turnbull, his first tries were a hat trick against York at Headingley, a feat he repeated in the return fixture and against Doncaster.
In the run-up to the Challenge Cup, he swept in for four tries in a home rout of Warrington and, on the road to Wembley crossed again in the nail biting first round win over Wigan, with 5,000 fans locked out. He did the same against Warrington in the second round in the snow and supplied the inside ball for skipper Keith McLellan in an astonishing comeback win at fortress Thrum Hall. His glorious try in the final was his 28th of the campaign. Four tries at the start of the following season against Doncaster augured well but the first signs of a susceptible shoulder saw him injured for a proportion of the season and he crossed 14 times in total, moving to the left wing to accommodate prolific Garry Hemmingway. He seemed back in full flow at the start of the 1958-9 season, scoring an astonishing six tries as Huddersfield were dumped out of the Yorkshire Cup, 64-17 at HQ and he was in the side that took the trophy at Odsal against Wakefield.
The following year he crossed for 16 tries and was part of a wonderful rear guard action at Wigan in the second round of the Challenge Cup that just ended in defeat. He started the 1960-61 season in good form but his shoulder flared up again and he scored his final of 80 tries in 139 appearances appropriately at Castleford where it had all started, in a 16-12 win, but missed out on making the Championship winning side.
Forced to retire aged 23, he returned to being a full time painter and decorator and still came to the support the side. He sadly passed away, aged 76, in September 2015 in Leeds, never moving out of the city.