Former Queensland flyer Willie Carne believes any criticism of veterans Brent Tate and Justin Hodges will only fire them up ahead of State of Origin.
The age old debate that Queensland are too long in the tooth to extend their dynasty will only fire up their veterans, ex-Maroons flyer Willie Carne says.
And Carne believes NSW will feel the backlash most via the men most likely to cop the brunt of criticism – Justin Hodges and Brent Tate.
Hodges – 32 on Sunday – was picked for next week’s State of Origin opener in Brisbane armed with just a handful of NRL games after an eight-month recovery from achilles surgery.
He will be nursed through the camp to be primed for his 19th Origin on Wednesday night.
And Tate – already 32 – only declared his Origin availability in late April after surprisingly being named 18th man for the trans-Tasman Test.
Age has not wearied the pair – but critics might see things differently as they prepare to line up against Sydney Roosters duo Michael Jennings and Daniel Tupou.
Centre Jennings is six years younger than Hodges and has explosive speed off the mark that would worry even his wiley opposite number.
And the 195cm Tupou – a remarkable 10 years younger and 10cm taller than Tate – possesses an aerial threat unseen since Queensland’s code-hopping Israel Folau.
Yet ex-Maroons flyer Carne – who played 12 Origins in the early 1990s – believed Hodges and Carne’s potential weakness would be their greatest strength.
“I just think having a crack at them about their age will just fire them up even more,” Carne told AAP.
“And you can’t buy or train that experience.”
Carne said he had been amazed by Hodges’ return to form after witnessing former Broncos teammate Tony Currie suffer the same serious injury.
“He has surprised me how well he has come back. I remember Tony Currie suffered an achilles injury and I know how daunting it is to come back from,” he said.
“I don’t think you can question Justin Hodges’ selection.
“I think he is in the best form I have seen him in.
“And he doesn’t need to train like a whipper snapper any more.
“He knows what he is doing. Let him manage himself the way he wants – it seems to be working for him.”
On Tate, who has overcome three knee reconstructions, Carne added: “He’s another who amazes me.
“I can’t get over how fast he still is, considering what he has had to overcome – it’s a credit to him.”
Tate and Hodges are part of a whopping seven-strong contingent in the Queensland team who are 30 or older.
That group also happens to boast some of the world’s best players including skipper Cameron Smith, Billy Slater, Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk.
The team’s average age is just over 28.
But Tate was left scratching his head over the critics’ fascination with age.
“I am mindful of the team moving forward. But some of those guys are the best players in the game,” he said.
“If they’re doing the job, I don’t see why there’s such a fuss made about it, to be honest.”