Hodges to add bite to midfield
JUSTIN Hodges’s Queensland teammates are hoping the strike centre will inject some aggression into the Maroons in what will be his first State of Origin match in two years.
Hodges last played in the Origin arena in the dead-rubber finale of 2009, which finished in a flurry of punches as emotions boiled over at Suncorp Stadium.
He has watched the past five interstate clashes from the sidelines because of injury and admitted New South Wales serial pests Michael Ennis, Greg Bird and skipper Paul Gallen got under Queensland’s skin in Sydney as the Blues levelled the series.
“I think they did (get under our skin),” he said at the naming of the Maroons at Hyatt Regency Coolum yesterday. They had to, though, they had to win.”
Hodges comes into the side at the expense of Melbourne’s Dane Nielsen, who has been named on an extended bench, while Jacob Lillyman returns to the squad following Dave Taylor’s pending suspension. Hodges made his return from a hamstring strain last Friday night against the Rabbitohs in Perth and while he may be down on match fitness, Sam Thaiday said Hodges was an integral part of the team.
“(Hodges) does have that little bit of something in him,” Thaiday said when asked if the Queenslanders missed the three-quarter’s aggression in Game II.
“Which is good, you need that from the players and I’m sure he’s not going to back down from anything.
“He’s going to be really keen to put in a great performance.”
While Nielsen was serviceable in the first two games of the series he lacked the attacking potency Hodges possesses and Maroons coach Mal Meninga said his “x-factor” was invaluable.
“You can’t lose that experience. He’s been there and done that before. He’s biting at the bit to have another crack at Origin level,” Meninga said. “He’s an x factor. We’re obviously happy to have him back but it’s at the expense of Dane who did a fantastic job and we know we can rely on Dane in the future.”
1. Billy Slater, 2. Darius Boyd, 3. Justin Hodges, 4. Greg Inglis, 5. Jharal Yow Yeh, 6. Darren Lockyer, 7. Johnathan Thurston, 8. Matt Scott, 9. Cameron Smith, 10. Petero Civoniceva, 11. Nate Myles, 12. Sam Thaiday, 13. Ashley Harrison. Interchange (TBC): Cooper Cronk, Ben Hannant, Jacob Lillyman, Dane Nielsen, Corey Parker.