Justin Hodges’ fairytale farewell is already under threat at the NRL judiciary, now a mystery back injury is also threatening to ruin the champion centre’s premiership swansong.
Brisbane hope “common sense prevails” and Hodges avoids a career-ending one-match ban for a dangerous throw charge on Sydney Roosters backrower Aidan Guerra.
However, Hodges may not be out of the woods if he dodges a suspension ahead of Sunday’s NRL grand final against North Queensland, judging by his early exit from training on Monday.
Hodges failed to complete the session just days after being forced from the field with a back ailment in the first half of their 31-12 preliminary final win over the Roosters.
Teammate Corey Parker tried to laugh off the back issue, describing it as “Mondayitis”.
However, it appears there is a real concern for the 33-year-old as he fights to keep alive hopes of a grand final finish to his glittering 16-season career.
Hodges – who has a long history of back-related hamstring problems – was treated for almost 10 minutes off the field before receiving an injection to return in the grand final qualifier. He admitted he was no closer to solving the problem after the convincing win.
But he has more pressing concerns thanks to the judiciary.
Brisbane assistant Kevin Walters hoped the judiciary panel would rely heavily on Guerra’s claim he contributed to the tackle.
“Hopefully common sense prevails. He’s got the full support of Aidan Guerra the player he performed the tackle on,” Walters told Triple M radio.
“Looking at the replays and slowing it down, I hope he gets off.
“It would be a shame for him not to be there.”
Parker admitted it would be a tragedy if Hodges was denied a last hurrah, saying they “can’t replace” what their skipper offers.
He said losing Hodges would be a major blow to their hopes of winning their first premiership since 2006, the six-time premiers’ longest drought.
“You can’t replace a guy like Hodgo,” Parker said.
“What we will do is what we have done all year.
“If someone is not able to play someone else will come in and do the job.
“It’s why we are in the position that we are.”
Parker is right – Brisbane have won all seven games Hodges has not played this year, using 29 players in 26 matches to date.
Lachlan Maranta is expected to slot into the backline if Hodges’ judiciary bid fails.
“He is a very important part of our side, it would be tragedy not to play a grand final in his last game,” Parker said of Hodges.
“Everyone including Aidan understands that there is nothing there.”
Guerra is expected to give evidence in favour of Hodges at the judiciary.