Roosters stint helped Hodges: Bennett

It was a deal that almost landed Justin Hodges on a Broncos blacklist.

But Wayne Bennett now credits Hodges’ controversial Sydney Roosters move with placing the budding fullback on the path to becoming arguably the game’s greatest centre.

Retiring Brisbane skipper Hodges, 33, will receive a sendoff ceremony at Suncorp Stadium after Thursday night’s crunch NRL clash with Melbourne, his last official home game before the finals.

It will be in stark contrast to the last time Hodges farewelled the Broncos.

Hodges was infamously dropped to reserve grade for the rest of the season when he told Bennett mid-2001 that he had signed with the Roosters.

But Bennett almost looked back fondly on the Roosters stint ahead of the Storm clash, saying it helped convince him Hodges would be a star centre – not a fullback.

“I thought he was going to be a fullback actually,” Bennett said of Hodges who will retire at season’s end.

“But he ended up being a centre at the Roosters.

“They put him there for three years and it worked out great for him.”

Bennett made up with Hodges when the strike weapon returned to Brisbane in 2005.

But Bennett’s fondness can only extend so far.

He baulked at calling 15-season veteran Hodges the Broncos’ greatest.

“He’s been one of the best players here for a long period of time, he’s not in the (Darren) Lockyer category but he is not far behind,” Bennett said.

But Bennett said rating Hodges among the game’s great centres was a no-brainer.

“Of course, he is. You can go back to Mal Meninga and Gene Miles, I’ve coached all of those guys,” he said.

“Is he better than them? That’s always up for debate.

“But he’s in that top category.”

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