Bulldogs five-eighth Josh Reynolds has praised former teammate and Knights halfback Trent Hodkinson for helping shape his career as the two prepare to face off against each other in Sunday afternoon's clash at Belmore.
The pair took the Bulldogs to a grand final appearance in 2014 on the back of helping NSW break their elusive Origin series drought months earlier.
They remain in regular contact off the paddock and Reynolds is thankful his former teammate will be present for his last Bulldogs game at Belmore – albeit in Newcastle colours.
"It's funny how it all works out with Hokko coming back into first grade last week, so it's cool that I can come up against him," Reynolds told NRL.com.
"There has been some back and forth banter already this week. He texted me this morning and said it was a battle of the sixes and said 'Would it be weird if I started cheering your name too'?
"We accomplished some great things together at the club and going up against each other for my last hit out – it's special.
"He just said make it a good experience just as a footy game."
The pair's combination at the Bulldogs proved to be a perfect blend of total opposites with the off-the-cusp style of Reynolds in attack complimenting the calmness of Hodkinson in the clutch stages of a game.
Both players shared a strong bond at the club that was accepted by Hodkinson's wife Chantelle, with "date nights" between the former halves pairing often included in the weekly schedule.
"He's been a massive part of my career at the Bulldogs and has helped me in so many ways with his cool and calm attitude," Reynolds said.
"Everyone knows what my approach used to be in games or even still is and he used to be a part of that collective side of game that calmed me down.
"I think that is why our combination clicked, we cared about each other off the paddock and put everything into it."
While Reynolds' departure at seasons end has brought some angst among supporters at Belmore, the treatment of Hodkinson at the Knights did not go down well with his former teammate.
"In a sense of his year at Newcastle I think it's crazy," Reynolds said.
"He's such a good player and I don't know what they can expect from him. He can only do his role and I think it's been fairly harsh.
"They can't expect him to go up there and change the culture or dimensions of a club in one or two years.
"He's such a genuine bloke and there isn't a person on this planet that would say otherwise. He always puts others ahead of himself and that's probably his undoing sometimes – because he's too nice."
With Hodkinson named at five-eighth alongside half Jaelen Feeney for the encounter, Reynolds believed the Knights would only get better after their lacklustre performance against the Wests Tigers.
The Bulldogs defeated Newcastle 22-12 earlier in the season with both sides battling in the bottom half of the top eight.
"[Hodkinson] and the Knights will be out to spoil the party on Sunday," Reynolds said.
"I know he is excited to come back to Belmore for the occasion too I think and be a part of it.
"They should have won more games than they have and we only just beat them last time. So it's on."