The Courier-Mail

Hodges be­lieves he can bow out a win­ner

- CHRIS GARRY @tiger_c­mail

JUSTIN Hodges says this Bron­cos team works harder than any he has been a part of and while it has taken him six months to re­alise it, he now be­lieves they can win the premier­ship.

Hodges ad­mit­ted he thought an NRL ti­tle was a dream too far for the Bron­cos at the start of this sea­son.

He thought the changes to key per­son­nel were too many and their young brigade of stars needed at least a year to form a com­bi­na­tion.

“To be hon­est, not in the first year, def­i­nitely not con­sid­er­ing the last few years where we have scraped into the eight,” Hodges said.

“The guys have worked the hard­est I have seen in the off-sea­son, changed their mind­set and you can see the re­spect the guys have for each other on the field.

“When you have a side do­ing that, they are hard to beat. We are al­ways there for each other – that shows on the footy field.”

Hodges plays his fi­nal reg­u­lar-sea­son game for the Bron­cos on Thurs­day night but his farewell tour of rugby league will roll on to the fol­low­ing week in a home fi­nal, likely against North Queens­land.

It will be the first time since 2011 the Bron­cos have hosted a home fi­nal.

Their cam­paign fell over that year when Dar­ren Lock­yer’s eye socket was frac­tured by a stray Ger­ard Beale knee.

The past three years have been be­low stan­dard for the Bron­cos, a club that doesn’t do re­builds and ex­pects to make the top four ev­ery year.

Those who wit­nessed pre­sea­son train­ing this year no­ticed an im­me­di­ate lift in in­ten­sity.

Hodges said his de­sire to re­turn to the grand fi­nal stage he last stood on in 2006, came in South Syd­ney’s dress­in­groom af­ter their premier­ship tri­umph last sea­son. He was in­vited to the game and the Rab­bitohs sheds by close friend Greg Inglis.

“I went down to the grand fi­nal last year to sup­port Greg and the at­mos­phere, the way they cel­e­brated when they won – I just knew I wanted that feel­ing again,” Hodges said. “And if these guys (Bron­cos young guns) are work­ing hard, any­thing is pos­si­ble.

“You al­ways dream of the big one. I would be ly­ing if I said I am not.

“There’s no bet­ter way to fin­ish the ca­reer than to win the comp.”

Hodges said his re­tire­ment was in part a method of get­ting the best out of his age­ing body.

“That’s the best ad­vice I got from Locky,’’ he said.

“Once you have made the de­ci­sion, you get that ex­tra 10-20 per cent you nor­mally wouldn’t have. You’d stay in your com­fort zone oth­er­wise.”

There’s no bet­ter way to fin­ish the ca­reer than to win the comp

JUSTIN HODGES

 ??  ?? TAR­GET IN SIGHT: Justin Hodges at train­ing; and (inset) cel­e­brat­ing the Bron­cos’ last grand fi­nal vic­tory in 2006. Main Pic­ture: Adam Head
TAR­GET IN SIGHT: Justin Hodges at train­ing; and (inset) cel­e­brat­ing the Bron­cos’ last grand fi­nal vic­tory in 2006. Main Pic­ture: Adam Head
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