Hodges driven by fairytale finish
Witnessing South Sydney's celebrations last year has inspired Justin Hodges to seek a fairytale finish of his own but the Broncos veteran admits that he didn't expect it would come so soon.
Having announced his decision to retire last month, Hodges will play his final regular-season game at Suncorp Stadium on Thursday night against arch rivals the Storm in the start of a farewell to rugby league tour he hopes reaches its conclusion in the Telstra Premiership Grand Final at ANZ Stadium on October 4.
A win against the Storm will keep the Broncos' minor premiership hopes alive for at least 24 hours but Hodges has a grander finale in mind having been swept up in the Rabbitohs' triumph 12 months ago in the stands.
At the Grand Final to support Maroons teammate and good friend Greg Inglis, Hodges said that the euphoria surrounding South Sydney's win convinced him that he had to make one more trip to the big dance before calling it a day.
"I didn't know if I was going to retire this year or next year but I knew I only had a year or two left and in my mind I knew I still wanted to get back there," Hodges said of a grand final farewell.
"Being there last year when I watched Souths, I went down to support Greg, the atmosphere, the way they celebrated when they won, I just knew I wanted that feeling again.
"Like everything you always dream of the big one. I'd be lying if said I'm not. There's no better way to finish your career than to win the comp so that's the hard task ahead.
"We've got a long road ahead and hopefully it happens. We've just got to keep playing the way we are and anything's possible."
Admitting that the end of his 16-year NRL career is now creeping up on him, Hodges said the finality of the decision to announce his retirement has brought an extra edge to his preparation.
Renowned for his dislike of the weights room – especially on 'leg days' – the 33-year-old said that the prospect of home finals all the way through to the Grand Final has made the words of Broncos legend Darren Lockyer resonate even more.
"That's the best advice that I got off 'Locky'. When you know it's the end you get that extra 10 or 20 per cent that you normally wouldn't have if you had to go for another year," said Hodges, who will play game No.247 on Thursday in search of his 100th career try.
"You'd probably just stay within your comfort zone so having him say that to me has really changed my mind even with weights and all those little things that I don't really enjoy, but I know that time is running out and I've got to do the little things properly.
"I always thought I maybe had one more year left but I had a good chat to my family and Wayne [Bennett, Broncos coach] and the body's just not holding up the way it used to.
"One day one [knee] will give way and the next day the other side will give away.
"I just knew my time was up and I didn't want to stand in the way of these young guys any more."