No one doubts his attacking skills but Justin Hodges’ defence will be what counts if Brisbane are to keep their NRL finals hopes alive, Broncos coach says.
His masterclass in attack left Brisbane coach Anthony Griffin in awe.
But Broncos co-captain Justin Hodges’ defence at fullback will be what counts in Friday night’s must-win NRL clash with the Dragons at Suncorp Stadium, according to Griffin.
The Brisbane mentor admitted Hodges never ceased to amaze him after the 32-year-old found another gear when switched from the centres to fullback last round.
Filling in for the injured Josh Hoffman (ankle), Hodges ran amok in attack to help inspire Brisbane’s 48-6 home rout of Newcastle.
Griffin said it was amazing Hodges was still able to influence a game at his age.
Especially after overcoming serious injuries such as a career-threatening second Achilles tear he came back from in April.
“You don’t realise how good they are until they get to the back end of their career,” Griffin said of Hodges, who has been retained at fullback.
“To still be playing at that level and have that influence on games after what he has gone through (is impressive).”
But the hard marking Griffin said Hodges would need to produce a similar effort in defence if Brisbane were to stay alive in the NRL finals race.
“The key is for us to hold together defensively and he (Hodges) has to play his role in that,” Griffin said.
“If he gets the ball a number of times in the right position he will come up with something.
“But it is important what he does for us defensively.”
Hodges will no doubt be kept honest by Dragons flyer Brett Morris who has overall scored 13 tries in 16 games and crossed 10 times in his last 13 against the Broncos.
Just like the Dragons (11th; 11-11 record), ninth-placed Brisbane are one of three teams on 26 competition points needing to win to keep the top eight door ajar for another week.
The Dragons have turned their season around by winning seven of their last 11 games.
Their revival has coincided with the remarkable rejuvenation of Dragons halfback Benji Marshall.
“He has taken a while to get back into the groove,” Griffin said of Marshall.
“He’s playing very straight and simple but is in great form at the moment.
“And (pivot) Gareth Widdop is obviously a class player – they are benefiting off each other.”
Brisbane have won their last seven games against the Dragons since round 21, 2010.