Hodges crucial to Broncos in 2011 - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Hodges crucial to Broncos in 2011

Wayne Heming 24/01/2011 06:10:22 PM Comments (0)

Coach Ivan Henjak believes a fit and hungry Justin Hodges is "crucial" to Brisbane's NRL premiership charge in 2011.

The former Queensland and Australian centre missed last season with a ruptured achilles, but Hodges has shown enough at training to inspire Henjak with confidence.

The 28-year-old left team-mates stranded with a flashy sidestep off his injured foot at a recent session, with the swift move convincing the coach his star is back.

Brisbane missed Hodges' potent attack as much as his defensive intimidation last year.

They failed to make the finals for the first time in 19 seasons after inspirational skipper Darren Lockyer (rib cartilage) went down injured five weeks out from the finals.

Hodges failed in a late bid to help the club's cause and at one stage there were genuine concerns he may have played his last game as he struggled to get on top of his serious foot problem.

"We certainly missed him last year, he's a big part of our team," Henjak told AAP on Monday.

"With the players we've lost over the last few years (primarily Karmichael Hunt and Israel Folau) he's even more important to the side now," added the coach, who is yet to anoint Folau's replacement.

"His experience will be crucial to our prospects in 2011.

"With both K (Hunt) and Izzy (Folau) gone, Justin is a senior player in our backline along with Locky (Lockyer).

"Our outside backs are still very young and Justin plays a crucial role, not only what he does physically out there, but with the confidence and talk he can share with those young blokes out wide."

Henjak isn't the only one excited by the prospect of seeing Hodges back in full flight after what will be almost 18 months on the sidelines.

"We're all excited, everyone in this organisation and every Broncos fan, we're all looking forward to seeing him play again," said the coach.

"It's really encouraging to see some of the things he's just starting to do at training ... he's starting to take it up another notch."

Hodges, who'll miss the NRL All Stars spectacular at Skilled Park next month, hasn't said much publicly about his goals in 2011.

But there's no doubt he wants to re-establish himself as a representative player again, alongside Queensland Origin centre partner and good friend, Greg Inglis.

In December 2008, Brisbane gave Hodges six weeks leave to work through a number of personal issues following concerns he was battling depression.

However Henjak said Hodges had come through his latest mental battle without displaying any worrying signs.

"I think it's been a real frustrating time for him especially when there were doubts over whether he'd ever play again," Henjak said.

"The signs for Justin are very good, he's in a very good space, he's physically in good shape, he's enjoying training and he's training really well.

"He's definitely ready to go."

Brisbane play the first of three pre-season trials against the Gold Coast Titans on February 12.

Brought to you by AAP AAP © 2024 AAP

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