A State of Origin swansong awaits Queensland veteran Justin Hodges.
Or does it?
Queensland coach Mal Meninga claims 33-year-old Hodges still hasn’t closed the door on playing Origin next year.
However, Meninga believes Hodges will retire from representative football if the Maroons emerge triumphant in July 8’s Origin series decider in Brisbane.
“If we are successful he might retire,” Meninga said.
“If we don’t he might go another year – I don’t know.”
Hodges – a 23-Origin veteran – said after a Broncos NRL game in April that he would hang up his rep footy boots at season’s end in a bid to see out another NRL season for Brisbane.
It set the stage for Hodges to draw the curtain on his glittering Origin career in a must-win Origin III in front of a packed Suncorp Stadium.
But Meninga wasn’t so sure.
“How do you know that?” Meninga said when told the game would be Hodges’ Origin swansong.
“When did he say that?
“Look, he’s undecided. I think he is close, but he has not made a definite decision.”
Hodges is yet to officially decide whether he will see out his Broncos contract and play on in 2016.
Dane Gagai said he would try to learn as much as he could from Hodges after earning his first Queensland call-up for Origin III.
Gagai will play on the wing under “irreplaceable” centre Hodges’ guidance in a reshuffled Maroons backline.
“Hodges has achieved a lot in his career, he is one of those players you can’t replace,” Gagai said.
“But his career isn’t done until he’s hung up the boots – I know he will be out there (in Origin III) giving all he has got.”
Meninga said it remained to be seen if Hodges walked away from an Origin career in which he had featured in eight of Queensland’s last nine series triumphs.
But he saluted the leader Hodges had become since first donning the Queensland jersey back in 2002.
“He’s certainly matured over the years but he hasn’t lost that love of life,” he said.
“He has a great sense of humour and he’s a bit old school the way he prepares sometimes.
“But he has enough respect and that’s why he is captain of the Broncos (in the NRL).
“He brings that leadership back to this team.
“If it is his last game, I think he is in for a big one.”