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Hodges: Time to put friendships aside

Hodges: Time to put friendships aside
Friendly rivals: Melbourne's Cameron Smith and Brisbane's Sam Thaiday. Credit: Scott Davis. Copyright: NRL Photos.

Ever since the 2006 season there has been a very strong and friendly rivalry between the Broncos and the Storm but if Brisbane are to win and qualify for the Telstra Premiership Grand Final they need to put all friendships aside for 80 minutes on Friday night.

Of course given how many Queensland players there are in both teams and how well the boys know each other, that is easier said than done. There's no doubt in my mind that at times in the past as Broncos players we probably weren't ruthless enough in the attitude we took into games against the Storm.

You've got to be physical with them and show them no respect on the football field. Yes they've got some wonderful players and they're your friends off the field but sometimes in the past Broncos teams have been guilty of being friends on the field which leaves you vulnerable.

You're being nice to them and then all of a sudden Billy Slater is running through you and scoring three or four tries.

 

‌We saw the Parramatta Eels pull them apart in Week One of the finals because they were physical with them so you've got to be physical. That's how you beat the Melbourne Storm.

My theory in terms of the best chance to beat the Storm is meeting them on grand final day when the pressure is at its highest.

They're such a clinical team in terms of their execution that they are extremely difficult to beat during the regular season but even the very best players in the game can be affected playing in front of 80,000 people on the biggest day of the year, as we proved in 2006.

We both had star-studded sides that year and they got the better of us all year until we played them in the grand final.

Of course, one of the toughest losses in my career came at the hands of the Storm two years later when we played them in the semi-final at Suncorp Stadium.

We led 14-6 with 15 minutes left and then 14-12 with a minute to go before disaster struck and Ashton Sims had the ball jolted free of his grasp as we tried to run the clock out.

I remember we were all coming in to have a dummy-half scoot and as he dropped it there was no one out on our right side. Everyone was scrambling, tripping over each other trying to get back into position but we weren't able to recover quickly enough to get our defensive line set.

My good mate Greg Inglis scored in the corner and Melbourne would go on to make the grand final a week later. You can only imagine we would have done the same thing had we held on.

Looking back now it was probably one of the biggest missed opportunities of making a grand final that I had in my career. 

You do get over it eventually but it is tough because you train all year for that moment and to have it taken away like that is very hard to take.

You flog your body in the pre-season to get ready for what's ahead of you and once you make the finals you want to make sure you make the most of it.

It's one of those things that takes a very long time to get over because grand finals are so hard to make and so hard to win so every time you get an opportunity you've got to make sure you take it.

That's what lies in store for the four teams left standing this weekend. All four teams have done amazingly well to get to this point but the absolute last thing you want now is to come up a week short of the big dance.

Only two teams can make it though and I just hope that every player this weekend does everything they can to take the opportunity that's in front of them.

Trust me, you don't want to have to live with the regret of what might have been.

Final thought

I was really excited to see Matt Scott get named for the Cowboys on Tuesday because given how early in the season he suffered his knee injury always in the back of my mind I wondered whether he could make it back in time if the team went deep in the finals. 

Even though he is one of the best front-rowers in our game it would still be a risk to play him this week because the team has been going well and he hasn't played for some 26 weeks so bringing in someone new – even someone as great as Matty Scott – is a risk in a prelim final. 

You can see from what they have been doing in the sheds that Scotty and Johnathan Thurston are still having a big influence on the side but there's no better feeling than seeing one of your best players suited up and ready to go. It does give you an added boost. 

The other interesting aspect is what it does to the Roosters' preparation. He's been named in the squad so they've got to prepare as if he's going to play so it does throw a bit of a spanner in their works because of the impact he can have on a game. He adds another dimension to the Cowboys so if you're the Roosters you have to be worried a little bit because they probably weren't expecting him to play.

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