Hodges ready to have the final word
He has an enviable record of winning any on-field wars of words but Maroons centre Justin Hodges said he and his teammates won't be listening to anything that comes out of the Blues camp in the days leading up to Wednesday's Origin decider.
Although fiery front-rower David Klemmer became the lightning rod for a more aggressive Blues approach in Game Two, the words of captain Paul Gallen on match eve were the kindling to spark the entire team into action and put a few noses out of joint north of the border.
Gallen is again due to give his final media interviews on Tuesday morning but Hodges says that no matter what gets said, the Queenslanders won't be listening.
"We don't worry about what they say. We just worry about the things that we've got to do and concentrate on," said Hodges, who will be playing his 23rd and final match for Queensland.
"The things that we've achieved, we don't have to keep talking about it, it's there.
"Everyone knows what we've done, we'll just leave the talking to them. We just play football and obviously set records."
Considered one of the most prolific sledgers by all who play the game but not by the man himself – "I haven't done too many" – Hodges is all too aware of the sting that a well-timed barb can bring.
After his horror Origin debut in 2002 where as a 19-year-old he twice passed behind the Queensland in-goal line to awful consequences, his then teammates at the Roosters unmercifully reminded of it in training drills for weeks after.
But now with the end in sight, he says that experience at a young age shaped the player he would become.
"I copped it for a while, even my own teammates at the Roosters used to give it to me when we used to kick the ball in-goal," he recalled. "'Make sure Hodgo doesn't throw it' and all that sort of stuff.
"You've got to have thick skin in this game but to me it's made me a better player.
"[Sledging] doesn't happen too often, in the heat of the battle it just happens. All it takes is one bad tackle or one bad pass or something like that and it gets sparked up quite easily.
"The good thing about it is the players don't overstep the boundaries, it's all in fun. It's all about trying to upset the opposition. If someone has got a star player in their side and they're carving you up you've got to try and do something to slow them down and obviously your tackling's not working so you've got to go with something else."
Fellow Queenslander Jacob Lillyman has played alongside Hodges in Origin and opposed him on many occasions in the NRL and believes there are few more blessed with the footballing gift of the gab than Hodges.
"He's up there with the best I have ever seen, that I have played with or against," Lillyman said.
"I don't think many get wins on the field against him. You'd want to be pretty switched on to match 'Hodgy'.
"I am glad he is on our side."
A win on Wednesday night would go a long way towards erasing the bad memories from that first Origin match which Hodges has never been able to bring himself to watch, and never will.
"We were in Proserpine the other day and they had all the tries leading up and 2001 came on and as soon as that came on I walked out because I knew what was coming next," said the 33-year-old.
"My first game wasn't good but I think I was only 19 at the time and probably didn't expect to play as early as I did.
"I got overwhelmed by all the players that were in that side, probably didn't prepare the best way I could but in a way I'm glad it happened.
"I'm still standing here now and it made me a better player and obviously made me work harder. As a 19-year-old kid you probably don't cherish things as you should so for me it's something that I'm glad happened and it made me a better player."