He’s already had one fairytale ending in 2015 so you can’t blame Justin Hodges for chasing another.
The Brisbane captain announced on Monday he’ll retire at the end of the NRL season, but not before he has a crack at leading the Broncos to this year’s premiership.
After bowing out of representative football in Queensland’s 52-6 thrashing of New South Wales to claim this year’s State of Origin campaign, Hodges will now hope to inspire the table-topping Broncos over the final few weeks of his club career.
Hodges says winning the 2006 premiership with the Broncos remains one of the biggest highlights of his 16-year career, a victory that also combined with the departure of another club legend in Shane Webcke.
“No one gave us a chance and it was Webby’s last year and to see a great player like that and to be a part of that was probably the most special part of my career so far,” Hodges said.
“The time’s right. The club’s in a great position, we’ve got so many wonderful players at our club.
“Obviously the body’s starting to break down, it’s not as fast and mobile as it once was having so many big injuries. Having a good chat with Wayne (Bennett, coach) and my family and close friends, the time felt right.
“I can move on knowing the club is in great hands with so many great players we still have at our club.”
Both coach Wayne Bennett and former skipper Darren Lockyer were sounding boards in Hodges’ decision making.
Bennett says he was honest in his assessment of whether the 33-year-old had another season of first grade in his legs.
“Your biggest fear as a coach is that you don’t want your champions to play a year too long and it all goes pear-shaped on them and they find themselves in the headlines for all the wrong reasons week after week,” Bennett said.
“He’s been remarkable with the injuries alone that he’s had to overcome. Knee reconstructions, Achilles, shoulders, he’s had them all and he’s continued to compete at the highest level for a long period of time.
“But we could see at training and things like that that his time was coming to an end.”
The Broncos will use Friday night’s home game against St George Illawarra to honour Hodges.
But Bennett says this year’s premiership campaign won’t become a `do it for Hodgo’ scenario.
“It will be in our minds there will be no doubt about that but at the end of the day if you don’t want to do it for yourself then we’ve got no chance,” he said.
“That’s the way he wants it, that’s the way I want it.
“If we’re all doing our best, he’s got a chance of being a part of something pretty special in the footy team.”
JUSTIN HODGES’ NRL CAREER
Clubs: Brisbane (2000-01, 05-15), Sydney Roosters (2002-04)
Queensland (2002-04, 2006-09, 2011-15): 24 games, five tries
Australia (2006-09, 2011-13): 13 games, four tries
* Won 2002 premiership with Roosters and 2006 premiership with Broncos
* 2007 Dally M centre of the year