Officially, retiring Brisbane captain Justin Hodges has been given the all clear for Sunday’s NRL grand final against North Queensland at ANZ Stadium.
However, Broncos coach Wayne Bennett admits it remains to be seen how long Hodges lasts in their first decider in nine years.
Hodges was given the green light after completing the majority of Saturday’s session before receiving treatment on his troublesome back which flared in last week’s NRL preliminary final win over the Sydney Roosters.
There are also concerns for second-rower Alex Glenn after his failure to train due to a thigh-groin complaint.
He has not trained all week.
However, the glaring concern was Hodges who hopes to draw the curtain on his glittering 16-season career with his third premiership win.
“There’s no doubt he’ll play,” Bennett told Triple M radio.
“How long he’ll play remains to be seen but we know he’ll be playing.”
Eyebrows were raised by Bennett, spending most time at training on Saturday mentoring 18th man Dale Copley – the man on standby for 33-year-old Hodges.
Broncos assistant Kevin Walters admitted he was worried about Hodges’ fitness.
“Hodgo is a bit of a concern for us because he hasn’t trained at all this week,” he told Sky Sports radio.
North Queensland will also monitor co-captain Johnathan Thurston (calf-groin) ahead of their first grand final appearance in 10 years.
“I know he is not 100 per cent, but these guys play with that many injuries, that won’t stop him,” Bennett said of Thurston.
Bennett will look to extend his record premiership winning tally to eight – seven with Brisbane.
But Queensland Rugby League boss Peter Betros admitted he was rooting for the Cowboys to win their maiden premiership year after their shocking finals run of late.
For the past three seasons, North Queensland have copped some dodgy refereeing calls – the ‘hand of Foran’ in 2012, Cronulla’s seventh-tackle try and last year’s disallowed four-pointer at the death against the Sydney Roosters.
“It is fair to say they haven’t had their share of luck,” Betros told AAP.
“I don’t think anyone would begrudge them a win.
“If the Broncos were to lose, I am sure they wouldn’t mind losing to the Cowboys – North Queensland are the sentimental favourites.”
Technically, Bennett lost a grand final in his first year at the helm at Canberra in 1987, as co-coach with Don Furner.
But Betros believed Bennett’s 7-0 grand final record as sole head coach said it all.
“He has a perfect record. It is hard to rule against that – his record is imposing,” he said.
“But it is a two-horse race in a grand final.
“At the start of the year, I picked North Queensland to win but, to be honest, Brisbane have been the big improvers of the year.
“It will come down to the bounce of the ball.”