Brisbane veteran Justin Hodges says teenager Corey Oates may be moved from the centres to the bench to protect him from Johnathan Thurston.

The Johnathan Thurston factor may yet force a last-minute Broncos backline reshuffle in order to protect teenager Corey Oates in Saturday night’s NRL elimination final against North Queensland.

Brisbane fullback Justin Hodges hinted on Wednesday he could replace Oates in the centres with the youngster relegated to the bench so he is not exposed by Thurston in his first final.

Co-captain Hodges has been a revelation since being handed the No.1 jersey after Josh Hoffman suffered an ankle injury three weeks ago.

But the Test and Queensland centre said there was a real possibility he would slot back into his old position with a returning Hoffman or Ben Barba at fullback in order to counter the champion Cowboys halfback.

“When you come up against a guy like Thurston it’s only a matter of time before he finds you out,” Hodges said.

“That’s up to the coach but he (Oates) may stay on the bench.

“It’s a big task for the kid to play 80 minutes against a guy who is playing his best footy.

“If anyone can find someone tiring in defence it is JT.”

Oates was slotted in at centre for the must-win match to replace England international Jack Reed (shoulder).

Hodges backed the 192cm 19-year-old Oates’s talent but said the backline make-up may also depend on whether Hoffman returns from injury.

“He’s a great talent, but it depends on what the coach does with him,” he said of Oates.

“I’d love to stay at fullback, it gives me more freedom than the centres.

“But it all depends on what Hoffman does – if he comes back I will obviously go back to the centres.”

But returning lock Sam Thaiday almost dared the Cowboys to target Oates in defence.

“If they want to, but if they watch the video (of last week) he put some pretty good shots on (Melbourne’s) Mahe Fonua,” he said.

“So if they want to run at him, I trust him defensively.”

Barba said a final decision on their backline may not be made public until the last minute.

“The boys joke about it, we have a wealth of fullbacks at the club – anyone could turn up at any position,” Barba said.

“I guess we won’t know until Saturday night.”