Instead of pointing the finger at Ben Hunt, retiring Broncos captain Justin Hodges has thrown his support behind the shattered halfback, saying he is the reason why they got to the NRL grand final.
No.7 Hunt was inconsolable after knocking on from the golden point re-start before North Queensland co-captain Johnathan Thurston nailed the match-winning field goal in the dramatic 17-16 triumph, sealing the Cowboys’ maiden title.
Hunt was sobbing after his gaffe, well before the Cowboys went into party mode following their stunning title triumph in their 21st anniversary year.
Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett made a beeline for Hunt on fulltime but declined to share what he said to him.
However, retiring Broncos captain Hodges said no one would be placing the blame on the pint sized playmaker.
“Do we have to rally around him? Nah. It’s not Ben Hunt’s fault,” Hodges said.
“Ben thought he cost us the game but without Benny we wouldn’t be here today.
“I don’t blame anyone. What happens, happens.”
It was a cruel end to Hodges’ remarkable 16 season career which featured two premierships.
“We didn’t get the result. But my dream was to get back here (grand final). I couldn’t be happier with them (teammates).
“You need a bit of luck. We are not going to sit here and whinge.
“The boys are feeling it but they will learn from it.
“They are a young side, they will bounce back.”
Hodges had to battle a back complaint to play his 251st and final NRL game.
It was yet another entry to Hodges’ long career injury list.
No wonder he almost appeared relieved to be hanging up his boots and resting his weary body as he reflected on the shattering loss.
“I’m glad it’s over,” he said with a smile.
It marked the first grand final Bennett had lost as sole head coach, ending his remarkable run of seven straight titles.
Asked if it was the most disappointing loss, Bennett said: “You don’t count your losses that way.
“Someone has to lose.
“We got beaten by a field goal.
“Are we disappointed? Of course we are but it was an outstanding game of football.
“I’m not bitter and twisted.”
On 33-year-old Hodges, Bennett said: “He didn’t get the fairytale finish but he has had a fairytale.
“He got to finish on his terms.”