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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