Hodges Getting Well-Settled
Saturday April 30, 2005
Much was said about the return of Justin Hodges to the Broncos when it was announced he would play with the club in 2005. Some of what was said was good, some was bad. Some was mixed and some was just plain idiotic, but we won't go there. The point is, Justin has overcome a lot of criticism and has worked hard to make his mark as a strong weapon in the Broncos' 2005 campaign.
With a few years of experience in a number of positions, Hodges's strength is enough to overcome a small lack of speed (although one could argue that he is deceptively quick) and this was highlighted in a brilliant piece of play tonight which lead to a Scott Minto try. Hodges drew his opposing centre as well as the winger, somehow still managed to go forward and slip the ball inside to Minto who crossed for the easiest of tries.
His trial form was very sketchy, but he was great in his first 3 performances of the year on the wing, before returning from a hamstring injury to play a great game at fullback, and tonight more than filled the shoes of the injured Brent Tate in the Broncos' stunning victory against Manly.
It is clear when watching Justin play that his attitude has changed for the better, largely thanks to Wayne Bennett. The sledger that we knew from the 2002-2003 era has gone and he is now concentrating on doing his job and he is doing it very well.
He is coming across as a reliable player who could fill a number of positions if required. This will become very handy during Origin time, where the Broncos could lose Brent Tate and Shaun Berrigan to representative duties for a few weeks.
He looks a different man on the field to what we saw of him at the Roosters. A lot of the time there he was having a few jokes between his team-mates (and his opponents), even when it was a tight game. Now it is all about getting the job done for Justin and he surely must feel a sense of satisfaction after a good win such as the one tonight. He can hold his head up high for his response to a lot of criticism, calls of "we don't want you here" and booing from his own fans. He certainly has changed for the better.
Last week I wrote an article about how instead of looking to someone like Darren Smith in a time of crisis, that we should look to our younger brigade to give them a taste of first grade footy and so that it will give them a mentality that they eventually will be regular Broncos so there is no need for them to leave the club. Well, I just didn't realise that a player like Darren Smith doesn't come by too often. He is a type of player even as rare as Allan Langer or Darren Lockyer in his own special way. Who would have thought that when Darren left us in 1998 that we'd see him back here at 36 years old and working absolute wonders on the field?
Experience is what won us the game against the Sharks, and tonight against the Sea Eagles he was just the ever-reliable workhorse that gave the players that extra bit of inspiration to perform to their best. And it certainly worked. Players such as Lockyer, Webcke and Civinoceva all were brilliant, but it was the other players such as Costigan, McGuire and Hodges that would have been motivated by what Darren Smith was doing on the field tonight. The man is one of Rugby League's most valuable players, and at 36 years of age. Who would have thought?
Sure, the Easts Tigers would be quite annoyed that Smith had ties with the Broncos before them, but I am sure he will do his best to serve both clubs the best he can. It's the type of man Smithy is - a club man. While there is no razzle-dazzle about his game, he is the type of player that every club in the NRL should want to get their hands on.
But you know what? HANDS OFF! HE'S OURS!!