Hodges reveals Super League dream
There are very few footballers out there in the NRL who are on speaking terms with Father Time.
Can you blame them? It's actually quite rude of the old fella, the way he gets his message across through hammy twangs, failing hands or squeaky knees.
But veteran Broncos centre Justin Hodges – like he's always showed on the field – seems to have him all figured out. He's done the maths: two years on the contract equals at least one more premiership ring, one more engraving on the Origin shield and a hell of a way to bow out of the NRL.
On the verge of completing his 16th pre-season in first grade, the 32-year-old revealed what his primary motivation was for 2015 and beyond, including a lifelong dream of a Super League title in England.
"We haven't won a comp at our club for a long time. As you get older, that's what drives you," Hodges revealed as he returned to the Indigenous All Stars camp for the third time.
"We haven't won one for about eight years now. That's the thing that keeps me going around. I still want another one or two and hopefully I get that.
"When you play for the Broncos, that's the guidelines you set for yourself, obviously for your team-mates and the club. Everyone loves to play football but we're all here for a reason, and that's to win. That's what makes me get out on the field. Obviously I want to win every game I play."
Tickets are available for the Harvey Norman Rugby League All Stars at ticketek.com.au/allstars
And that includes at least two victories in this year's Origin Series. A permanent fixture in the Maroons' three-quarter line since making his representative debut in 2002, Hodges said he had no intention of retiring his Queensland post and every intention of reclaiming the jewel in rugby league's shiny crown.
"As long as [Brisbane are] looking good and healthy towards Origin time, the body's going good, I'll have to reassess then," Hodges said of any consideration to retiring from representative football.
"Like any football player, you wish you could play forever, but I'd still like to leave Origin a winner. I'd still like to play this year and hopefully get that shield back."
And if all goes to plan and he returns to Brisbane in July an interstate winner, the focus will then shift to a third premiership ring, one that he believes would hold more meaning than the Roosters triumph in 2001 and the Broncos fairytale of 2006.
"The first one at the Roosters I didn't [appreciate]. I think I was only 19, 20 so it was more of a gimme one," he explained. "You had guys like Brad Fittler, Luke Ricketson and all those guys in your team, you relied on them. That one went so quick.
"But the Broncos one in '06 was my favourite. Having an understanding of what it meant to the club, the position we came from and obviously Shane Webcke finishing his last game. So there was a whole lot of meaning behind that game. For me, what keeps me going is that I want to win some more comps."
And the man who steered that team to its sixth – and most recent – grand final victory, coach Wayne Bennett, is finally back at the helm.
"He's one of the most important pieces of the puzzle. As you all know, a coach can't win you the game. It's up to the players to go out there and execute the game plan that they put together," he said.
"Obviously along the way you need a bit of luck as well, injuries happen and all that type of stuff. Hopefully we can do it. It's nice to have 'Benny' home. It'd be nice to win another one. I think it'd be special."
It's all a long way down the track, but Hodges says that's just how fast the game is going. The proof was there in the summer, and he might only have one of those left in him if Father Time has anything to do with it.
"The refs have come down to training once and showed us the speed of the ruck. I think the game's going to get faster," said Hodges. "That's the way you've got to train. Pre-season you've got to go longer and harder to get the guys fitter. Hopefully I'm on the way out before that happens," he said.
"My dream was to always go over [to England] and hopefully win a comp there. That's something I've always thought about. At the moment, my time's here. I've still got another two years left here and if I win a comp between then, I'd like to go over there and have a run for a year."