Master sledger Justin Hodges admits NSW rival Michael Jennings left him lost for words in State of Origin II.
But the Queensland great hopes to have the final say on their rivalry in his Origin swansong by inspiring a “fairytale” game three win in Brisbane on Wednesday night.
Maroons coach Mal Meninga had left the door open for Hodges to return for Queensland next year if they lost the series this year.
The 33-year-old Hodges slammed it shut on Sunday, confirming that he would run out for his 24th and final Origin appearance on Wednesday night.
His priority is a game three win and the Maroons’ ninth Origin series in 10 years.
But the wily centre claimed he also had some unfinished business with Jennings.
Hodges admitted he took it personally when NSW centre Jennings’ man-of-the-match display inspired the Blues’ 26-18 Origin II win in Melbourne.
“Definitely. That’s something that I’ve always prided myself on, making sure that if I go out and do my job and be the best centre against my centre then obviously we’re one step closer to winning,” he said.
“He got me in game two and there’s still one more game to go.”
Known for his knack for niggling, Hodges admitted he was speechless in game two against a livewire Jennings, who critics claimed made the Queensland great look “old and slow”.
“I wasn’t on my game as best as I could defensively and there was nothing I could say,” he said.
“He was named man of the match and he deserved it.
“It’s my job to try and stop him on Wednesday.
“I think in time he’s going to be one of the best centres in the game. I’ve got heaps of respect for him but when we’re on the field we’re both trying to win for our state or our club.”
The Maroons veteran kept his fingers crossed for a fairytale finish but hoped his teammates did not adopt a “do it for Hodgo” attitude for game three.
“It’s probably the hardest thing to do, end on a fairytale,” Hodges said.
“The first two games have been tough and this one’s going to be even tougher.
“We’ve got our hands full but for me I just want the lads not to worry about me and to get the result for me.
“I just want them to go out and play the best way they can and whatever is meant to be is meant to be.”
Hodges had a nightmare Origin debut back in 2002 at the age of 19 when he twice gifted NSW tries with “hail Mary” passes in-goal.
He has since become a Queensland great and was a key to their record eight straight series streak that ended last year.
Hodges said he knew last year that the end was nigh.
“As hard as it is to say it, you never want to give up your Queensland jersey, but I feel the time is right,” he said.
JUSTIN HODGES’ ORIGIN STATS
* State of Origin games: 23
* Origin debut: Game two, 2002
* Origin points: 20 (five tries)
* Career Origin stats:
* Average possessions per game: 19.3
* Average runs: 12.2
* Average metres: 108
* Tackle busts: 77
* Line breaks: 8
* Try assists: 3
* Offloads: 31
* Errors: 33
* Average tackles per game: 11.1
* Average missed tackles per game: 2.8