Hodges eyes end to rep career
Queensland and Kangaroos stalwart Justin Hodges has revealed that the 2015 season shapes as his last in the representative arena.
Hodges will be on the Gold Coast on Friday morning for the official launch of the 2015 Harvey Norman All Stars fixture and is hopeful that his 16th season in the NRL stretches all the way from February 13 until the first weekend in October.
Having given up his place in the Kangaroos squad for the recent Four Nations to undergo two minor off-season surgeries Hodges admits that he is aware of the commitment he needs to make to his club side, the Broncos, but insists he first wants to re-establish Queensland Origin supremacy before stepping down from representative football.
"The whole reason I pulled out [of the Four Nations] was that I needed to get two operations and I thought doing my knee was going to be a lot longer than what it was," said Hodges, who is contracted at the Broncos for a further two seasons.
"You always want to represent your country and I'll always put my hand up and obviously I still want to play Origin. I don't want to leave on losing terms so hopefully next year we get the shield back but as long as you're playing good footy and you're going to contribute to the team and you're not going to be a liability you never want to stop playing.
"In saying that, I know I've got an obligation to the club and probably next year might be my last year as a rep [player].
"I'll play All Stars and then we go over to England (to play in the World Club Series) and I think we've got a trial game in Mackay against the Cowboys so I think most of us will play in that one."
With an aging body that has had to endure two major achilles tendon injuries, numerous hamstring complaints and knees that creak more than a rusty hinge, Hodges admitted that he thought playing in the return of the All Stars game may be beyond him.
But that good news from the surgeon and encouragement from Broncos coach Wayne Bennett will see him take his cherished place in the Indigenous All Stars team at Cbus Super Stadium on the Gold Coast on February 13.
"At first I didn't think I'd be able to play because of my knee. I was supposed to have a big operation but everything worked out well so I'm delighted and can't wait to get back into camp and pull on that jersey again," said Hodges, who has played in two of the four All Stars matches to date.
"I had a chat to [Bennett] about playing in the All Stars and he was happy for me to play. He understands what it means to play for our people and also Queensland and Australia so I think mentally it comes down to us as players when you know you've had enough.
"Sometimes it's hard, sometimes maybe you do need a tap on the shoulder but my biggest thing is making sure I'm going out there and that I never let my teammates down.
"As long as I'm going out there and doing everything I can to make sure we're winning games as much as I can, I never want to give it up."
A member of the NRL's Indigenous players' leadership group alongside superstars such as Greg Inglis and All Stars captain Johnathan Thurston, Hodges said the return of the All Stars week is important to positively influence young Indigenous people both within the squad and outside.
"I think it's very important for our people, that whole week especially for our kids," said the veteran of 21 Origin matches and 13 Tests for Australia. "Just to see their faces, how happy they are when we come to do promos and that type of stuff.
"It gets them away from their everyday life for a week and they can come and hang out with us and have a bit of fun. Every year has been successful and we're happy that it's back.
"When [young players] walk into camp and they see 'GI' or 'JT' or someone doing something that they probably wouldn't normally do, the little things at training. Sometimes as an athlete you do get a bit lazy and tired of things so it's important that you see guys like that and how hard they do work because sometimes people don't realise how hard they work.
"Even though they're naturally talented players behind the scenes with everything they do, whether it's stretching or ice baths, diet, those guys work really hard on that and I think that's the one thing when those guys come into camp they really pick up on."