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He was made to wait but Justin Hodges made a triumphant return for the Broncos on Friday night. Copyright: Col Whelan/NRL Photos
It was a tactical move to introduce Justin Hodges into the game after some of the early sting had dissipated but don't expect Broncos coach Anthony Griffin to keep him up his sleeve any time soon after a strong return from injury on Friday night.

Hodges admitted that beginning is comeback match from the bench compounded his nerves as the Broncos' star centre made his long-awaited return from an achilles injury in Friday's 25-18 loss to the Eels.

Griffin shuffled his deck before kick-off, opting to start Hodges from the bench and recall Lachlan Maranta to the wing but the introduction of the Test and Origin star ignited the Broncos attack. His class alone created a try for Dale Copley on the stroke of half-time and he amassed 126 running metres in 55 minutes of game-time.

That was longer than the original intention but the 31-year-old said that with the game in the balance, there was no way he was going to be benched again.

"I wasn't planning on playing that long, but it was a close game and I didn't want to come off," Hodges said.

"I'm pleased to get through a lot of work and I'm looking forward to next week.

"I was a bit nervous before the game and I was saying to the boys that it's a bit nerve-racking sitting on the bench.
"Sitting there watching the first half I was a bit nervous, but when I got out there it all came natural which was good."

When quizzed after the game on his pre-match tactical switch, Griffin revealed that it was always his intention to have Hodges start on the pine despite being initially named in the starting side.

"Obviously he's been out for a long time and for his first game I just wanted the first 20 to 25 minutes to go and then get him on," Griffin said.

"I was happy he got through injury free. He had some good touches and from his point of view I was happy that he got a game under his belt."

Griffin's decision to wrap Hodges in cotton wool for the early exchanges proved somewhat of a masterstroke, as he quickly demonstrated his credentials with a trademark run from dummy-half followed by a lovely offload for Copley's try.

"It's always good when you can come onto the field and you can do that," Hodges said of his immediate contributions.

"Obviously it does give you a lot of confidence and I was just lucky to set that up for 'Digger' (Copley).

"Coming out of dummy-half was always going to be the hardest bit but I managed to do that a fair bit."

Despite a disappointing result for the Broncos in a match where they below-par in both attack and defence, Hodges was please to finally take to the field again after an eight-month absence.

The Broncos now turn their attention to their local derby against the Gold Coast Titans on Friday, looking to bounce back from what was a shabby display against a slippery Eels side.
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