Stuart hopes Hodges is a slow debt-payer - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Stuart hopes Hodges is a slow debt-payer

By Wayne Heming 24/07/2008 06:24:35 PM Comments (0)

Sharks coach Ricky Stuart is hoping classy Brisbane centre Justin Hodges takes time repaying a debt he believes he owes teammates following his seven week stint on the sidelines.

Hodges returns from a lengthy suspension for his sickening tackle on Parramatta hooker Mark Riddell in June determined to repay teammates and fans, even if it means getting off-side with Stuart who'll coach the Kangaroos in the upcoming World Cup.

"I just hope he doesn't repay them in one fell swoop," said Stuart after the Sharks trained in the wet in Sydney before flying north.

Brisbane assistant coach Ivan Henjak said Hodges was aware how much his actions had put Brisbane behind the eight ball and how much they'd struggled without him.

Henjak, who'll have forwards Tonie Carroll and prop Nick Kenny available after the pair came through fitness tests in the training session at Red Hill, said he expected Sharks utility Greg Bird to make an early comeback from a knee injury on Friday night.

While the aggressive utility said he doubted he had enough "run in his legs" to be a surprise starter, he still joined teammates on the Brisbane-bound flight.

Stuart painted a different story, suggesting Henjak's instincts may be on the money.

"We're travelling up with 19, I wouldn't have brought him (Bird) up if I thought that was the case," Stuart told AAP.

Henjak had no doubt Bird would play.

"He's due back in another week but usually when they're playing against us, guys seem to come back from injury and generally make an appearance.

"We've made a point that he might be playing and we've had a look at the things he can do, but it's not going to affect the way we play."

The Sharks got the money 13-6 earlier this year when Brisbane were without their Origin stars but Henjak made the point that Cronulla took the field without Paul Gallen, Greg Bird and Brett Kearney.

Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett threatened to wield the axe after Brisbane's poor second half against the Cowboys last week but apart from dropping young prop Dave Taylor didn't really make changes, preferring to put his players on notice for the Sharks clash.

"I think the threat was fairly real," said Henjak who'll take over from Bennett as head coach next season.

"He's had a re-think, talked to a few players and I think they know there's not going to be any more second chances.

"They know they need to perform and start getting their game together otherwise he will make those changes."

Sharks five-eighth Brett Seymour said his former Broncos coach Wayne Bennett was a master at getting his players fired up for big games.

"Wayne is good at firing rockets when he needs them," said Seymour who Stuart said had been a little down on form but who could fire against his old club.

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