Brisbane’s Justin Hodges has provided further evidence he is still a State of Origin threat before allaying fears he’s aggravated his troublesome achilles.
Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?
Wily Brisbane veteran Justin Hodges’ audacious “tunnel ball” pass on Friday night lit up a dour NRL derby and sparked a 22-8 Suncorp Stadium win over an injury-hit Gold Coast.
And Queensland selectors’ hearts were racing again when Hodges left the field in the final 10 minutes with a leg complaint.
But Hodges, 31, hoped to add to his long highlights reel in the May 28 State of Origin opener in Brisbane after allaying fears he had aggravated a long-term injury.
Hodges rolled his ankle but left the field early, more to rest his troublesome achilles before Queensland named their game-one team on Monday night.
“There was a fright,” said Hodges, who returned this year from an eight-month recovery from achilles surgery.
“Any time you come back from a major injury, it gets a bit sore but I was just trying to look after it.
“But the ankle is not too bad. I just wanted a bit of a rest.”
He earned it after a cheeky backflick through his legs from dummy half set up winger Dale Copley’s 57th-minute try in the corner that turned the game.
“We don’t train for that one,” Broncos coach Anthony Griffin smiled.
Asked if he was a school tunnel ball champion, Hodges laughed: “It was spur of the moment.”
It ensures Hodges will be one of the first picked when Maroons selectors mull over their game-one squad – but the jury is out on their back-row stocks.
Brisbane’s Sam Thaiday (calf) has been sidelined for a month.
However, Hodges expected Queensland coach Mal Meninga to again brandish the loyalty card for incumbents like Thaiday.
“That’s the trust he has in his players,” Hodges said.
“And Sam is not too far away.
“Hopefully, he is out there because game one is the one you want to win and you need your strongest players out there.”
Gold Coast’s David Taylor (159m) and Brisbane prop Josh McGuire (147m, 29 tackles) did their Origin causes no harm.
Back-rower Taylor, at one stage, lined up against Hodges in the centres as Gold Coast were reduced to two men on the bench for the final 50 minutes after pivot Aidan Sezer (pectoral) and William Zillman (concussion) went down.
The crisis-hit Titans were already without Greg Bird (suspension), Albert Kelly (leg), Ashley Harrison (concussion) and Kevin Gordon (knee).
“The last four weeks, he has been outstanding,” Hodges said of Taylor.
“A guy like that coming off the bench in Origin would make a difference.”