The Courier-Mail



JUSTIN Hodges was the Xfactor who piloted Brisbane to their last premiershi­p and he is primed to produce a skipper’s knock to break the Broncos’ nine-year title drought.

The retiring strike weapon is on the verge of a milestone when he faces Melbourne tonight in his final regular season game for the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium.

Already Suncorp’s greatest tryscorer, Hodges (pictured) needs one more four-pointer to celebrate 100 career tries. Coincident­ally, his maiden try for the Broncos was against Melbourne, at Olympic Park four days before his 18th birthday in 2000.

Hodges’s main ambition now is to captain the Broncos to this year’s premiershi­p.

His shift to fullback inspired Brisbane’s surge to their most recent title and the 33-year-old has vowed to leave nothing in the tank this time either.

“It would mean everything to captain this club to a premiershi­p,” he said.

“To win a comp in 2006 ... that was something I always dreamt about. Hopefully if I get to win it as a captain, it will be an even better feeling.

“It was a very emotional month (in 2006); no one gave us a chance. We lost so many games coming into the finals and then we won it.

“It was Shane Webcke’s last year and to beat the Storm to give him his fairytale was something special.

“It would be great to get the fairytale too, but it’s a hard road ahead from here.”

Hodges will lead the Broncos out in the club’s first “Members Jersey’’ tonight.

The one-off strip will have the names, in fine print, of every past Broncos player, plus current staff and club members who ordered the jersey.

A “Thanks Hodgo’’ T-shirt will be sold at Suncorp tonight and the crowd is invited on to the pitch at fulltime to salute one of Brisbane’s finest players.

“It’s started to sink in that this will be the last regular season game for me,” he said.

“Hopefully it will be a great night, I’ve really enjoyed my time at the Broncos. Hopefully I have a few games left in me.”

Broncos coach Wayne Bennett said Hodges deserved the perfect premiershi­p send-off enjoyed by Maroons greats Mal Meninga and Steve Renouf.

“Mal went out that way and S Steve Renouf went out that w way and Justin should go out th that way, too,” he said.

“You can see the happiness in him. Justin has been one of our best players for a long time. He’s not quite in the Darren Lockyer category but he’sh not far behind them.

“It’s fitting that he should finishfi this way.”

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