Te'o returns serve on Hodges sledge

"How many effin' competitions have you won?"

Justin Hodges sure does know how to land them.

And not just on Tariq Sims, after the Cowboys enforcer belted Hodges six ways through Sunday last month.

Ben Te'o would cop the same inquiry from Hodges every day when the Rabbitohs hard man was reunited with his old Broncos teammate as they traded in their club colours for the maroon of Queensland.

Until now.

"I just said to him 'look I've got a ring', don't say that to me anymore man," Te'o laughs after being handed his first bit of premiership bling in his last game of NRL.

"I just saw Justin Hodges in there.  He was bagging me all through Origin, and he goes 'I'll be there if you win it'."

And he was. 

"We share a lot of banter as teammates and one of his lines he'd always love saying to me was 'how many comps have you won?' and I never had anything to say. And I know it might not seem like a big thing but in footy to say you've won one is massive."

Thing is, this kind of is a big thing. Forty-three years in the making for the Rabbitohs, and over a decade coming for Te'o since he was cast out by the Warriors as a 17-year-old, the $2000 owed on his contract paid out in boots and tracksuits.

It's the kind of thing that Te'o admits instigates the sneakiest thought of skipping out on the rugby union caper – a two-year deal with Irish club Leinster – that he's signed himself up for.
 
"It makes it hard (to leave) now doesn't it?" Te'o says.

"This game, this team; the Rabbitohs, we're connected now for the rest of my life and it's going to be a big part of me.

"It is hard to walk away but I'm on a plane on Saturday, I'm going to Dublin, and I'm going contribute to another organisation and I'm going to try and win. It's good for me to get away."

Not that he's calling last drinks on a 153-game NRL career that's in its prime and has been capped with six Origin appearances. Nor is he ruling out playing in colours other than the cardinal and myrtle that he's just achieved a lifelong dream in.

As always with Te'o, when he speaks it's with a refreshing touch of candour and more than a bit of that famed self-deprecating humour.

"I've got a year and a half (in European rugby) and I'm open to anything," he says.

"I'm going to go there and learn some new things.  I'm never going to rule out coming back to the NRL, but in my immediate plans it's not something I'm going to do.
"And if anyone wants me, who knows? I'll be a washed up rugby player by then!

"It'd be hard to play against (Souths). We've got a special bond now. It was hard to play against the Broncs... it was hard to play against the Tigers... that's just footy.

"I'm not going to say I'm not going to not play against these guys."

What he is certain about is that Souths can make themselves pretty comfortable at the pointy end of the competition table. With the most potential of any backline in the NRL, the Burgess twins stepping into the void left by brother Sam and Penrith's Tim Grant and Manly warhorse Glenn Stewart on the way in, Michael Maguire's men are sitting pretty. Just so long as they don't get too comfortable with their achievements.

"This organisation's going to be strong for a long time," Te'o says.

"It was already on the up when I got here. Madge's (Maguire's) first year was very successful. I thought last year we put everything into it but it didn't eventuate. It made me stronger. I dug deeper and so did everyone else, we learnt lessons.

"Now these young guys it's their first year and they've won it. I've been playing for eight something years now, busting my arse and I've got so much satisfaction and I just hope they realise this doesn't come around that often."