Hodges to have final say in last Origin

Instead of praise, Queensland great Justin Hodges first copped a sledge ahead of his State of Origin swansong.

It only seemed fitting for the Maroons’ master niggler.

The 33-year-old centre will again attempt to have the final say in Wednesday night’s series decider in Brisbane – Hodges’ 24th and last Origin.

But instead of compliments, Queensland coach Mal Meninga couldn’t help take a swipe at his sometimes training-shy star.

“What will it be like without Justin? We will finally have a centre who can train, that’s a good start,” Meninga smiled.

Hodges’ talent for avoiding training during his 13-year Origin career may rival his gift for the gab.

“He has certainly come a long way,” said Maroons teammate Jacob Lillyman who first met Hodges in the 2006 Origin camp.

“I can remember back then … guys like him would never stretch.

“But you see him now … his professionalism has certainly come along in leaps and bounds and that has probably helped him over the last few years of his career.”

Hodges may have some comebacks up his sleeve but he had nothing when quizzed on his training approach.

“I don’t do too much. I love bench press but all that stuff, as you get older, it just becomes boring – there’s no other way to put it,” Hodges admitted.

“It’s something I’ve never been big on.

“I’ve just always wanted to get out and run around and throw a football around with my mates.

“That’s something I’ve always been about, just having fun and don’t take anything too serious.”

That would explain his legendary sledges.

“He’s up there with the best I have ever seen that I have played with or against,” Lillyman laughed.

“I don’t think many get wins on the field against him – I am glad he is on our side.”

Hodges will have Michael Jennings in his sights after the NSW centre received man of the match honours after Queensland’s 26-18 game two loss.

“In the heat of the battle it just happens. All it takes is one bad tackle or one bad pass or something like that and it gets sparked up quite easily,” Hodges said of the art of sledging.

“The good thing about it is that the players don’t overstep the boundaries, it’s all in fun.

“It’s all about trying to upset the opposition.”

Hodges’ Maroons career could have nudged the record for Origins played (36 by Queensland’s Darren Lockyer) if not for a string of serious injuries including two Achilles operations.

“He’s an inspiration just through what he has gone through, a couple of snapped Achilles,” Lillyman said.

“Not only to come back and play footy after that but to reach the same levels he was at beforehand – he’s a unique player.”

Unsurprisingly, Lillyman also could not resist a parting shot ahead of Hodges’ Origin retirement.

“He’s telling us he will be driving the (Queensland) team bus next year,” Lillyman laughed.

“He’s ruled the first two days of camp out though.”

AAP lc/wd

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