Hodges can add strike factor for Broncos - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Hodges can add strike factor for Broncos

By Wayne Heming 15/07/2008 04:52:11 PM Comments (0)

Brisbane may have been missing Darren Lockyer, but the absence of strike centre Justin Hodges is hurting just as much.

Lockyer made a successful comeback from knee soreness against the Bulldogs last weekend, but Hodges has another week before he's back in a Broncos jumper - and it can't come soon enough.

Even with their champion playmaker in the No.6, Brisbane struggled to make things happen in the upset loss to the Dogs when the ball got out to the centres.

It's no coincidence they scored six tries in three of their five games before Hodges was suspended for six matches for a dangerous throw on Parramatta hooker Mark Riddell in round 12.

Since he's been sidelined, the best their attack has mustered is three tries in a game.

"A player of Hodgo's stature is going to make a big difference in any side," declared experienced Brisbane forward Corey Parker.

"With some of our three quarters going down (injured) he makes a big difference coming out of our half and with his excitement around the ruck."

The extended break has helped Hodges shake off several niggling injuries and he will burst back refreshed and re-energised.

"He's in the sports car category of football players so a bit of time off won't have hurt him," said Parker.

"He's pretty upbeat at training and enthusiastic so he's champing at the bit."

Like Lockyer, Hodges is a player who can influence a game on his own.

"You only have to look at what he's done in the game already," said Parker.

"He's one of those gifted players who can make something out of nothing and we're fortunate to have him in our side."

With St George Illawarra star Mark Gasnier confirming he's heading to France to play rugby union next season, Hodges has the opportunity to challenge for the mantle of league's No.1 centre heading into the World Cup at the end of the year.

His ability to shut down attacks as well as spark them makes him a special player.

And his closeness with Lockyer and fullback Karmichael Hunt can be lethal, which is why Bennett believes his role in the coming weeks is "vital" to Brisbane's premiership quest.

"It's getting exciting," said Parker with Brisbane almost back to full strength and facing a struggling North Queensland on Friday.

"There's eight weeks left, it's time for sides to fine-tune how they want to head into the latter part of the season and for us, that starts on Friday night against the Cowboys."

Parker said the fact the Cowboys had dropped their last 10 games straight meant a win was "just around the corner".

"It's always been a good rivalry up there so we're expecting a pretty tough and physical game up there," he said.

Asked if Origin match-winner Johnathan Thurston was the Cowboys' trump card, he said: "Every team has got their superstars and he's certainly one of them.

"A lot of stuff will come off him for sure."

Brisbane have a number of players battling ankle injuries including veteran lock Tonie Carroll and utility David Stagg, who face fitness tests on Thursday before the teams heads to Townsville.

"There's always niggling injuries going around this time of the year and Thursday's session will finalise a few things," said Parker.

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