An existing partnership with Justin Hodges at club level could help Dale Copley's claims for an Origin debut in Game Three. Credit: NRL Photos Copyright: NRL Photos
Queensland centre Justin Hodges has handed Brisbane team-mates Dale Copley and Josh McGuire a glowing endorsement for selection for Origin III in the wake of injuries to Brent Tate and Matt Scott.
With the final match of the Series no longer a decider, Hodges believes the time is right for Maroons selectors to reward Copley and McGuire for their consistently eye-catching displays over the course of the season with an Origin debut on July 9.
McGuire's name was touted for Origin selection prior to Game One but Queensland selectors decided to stick with an out-of-sorts Josh Papalii as the front-row interchange replacement for the opening match of the Series.
While the calls for McGuire to make his Origin debut have been around for some time, the bolter for Queensland could be Copley, who partners Hodges on the right edge at the Broncos.
"Obviously with [Brent] Tate out it'll be a good chance for Dale Copley to get a run," Hodges said.
"I really believe he'll suit Origin – he's played his best football [of his career] so far [this season] so there's no reason why he shouldn't get a run.
"I think he's ready [to step up]. Over the years he's had some pretty big injuries and I think now he does deserve his chance. Now is his time and obviously we play together every week and I really feel comfortable with him outside of me.
"He's got everything 'Digger' – he's a great kid and a great player and I do hope he gets his chance. It'll be well deserved.
"If Mal (Meninga, Maroons coach) and the boys select him I'm sure he won't let anyone down."
Friday night's match against the bottom-placed Sharks offers both Copley and McGuire one last chance to press for selection as the Broncos head into another bye the following weekend.
The 20-game Origin veteran also feels as though the Sharks clash will provide the perfect platform for McGuire to stake his selection claims against a Cronulla forward pack containing the likes of Paul Gallen, Luke Lewis, Anthony Tupou and Sam Tagataese.
"I definitely think [Friday's match] will be a big chance [for Josh to push his Origin claims]," he said.
"Coming up against 'Gal' and Luke Lewis who have played Origin will be a good indicator to where he is at.
"With 'Scotty' (Matt Scott) missing it'll be a good chance to give Josh a chance and hopefully he can take it with both hands."
Meanwhile, Hodges says he's ready to hit the paddock again after sitting out last weekend's clash against the Warriors. The Broncos co-captain declared the Broncos won't be taking the Sharks lightly despite their lack of points over the past three matches and the comments made by Gallen in relation to interim coach Peter Sharp.
"I'm still a little bit sore from Origin – it's been a big campaign – it's been brutal, it's been tough, but I think the body is ready for Friday night," he said.
"We can't be worrying about other teams – we've got to worry about ourselves. We are coming off a loss as well and we're trying to put ourselves in a good position during the Origin period and whatever happens to any other club is their business.
"We've just got to prepare the best we can [in order] to win the game. They haven’t scored for a while but that doesn't mean anything.
"Everyone loves coming up to play at Suncorp especially on a Friday night – it's the best place to play footy and I'm sure 'Gal' will have his boys ready to go."