Hodges: Why I turned down the Cowboys
As a young footy player growing up in North Queensland the Cowboys had first option on you but I always knew I wanted to play for the Broncos.
When the Broncos came into the competition in 1988 they became the No.1 team for everyone in Cairns but that's changed now with the success the Cowboys have had over the past decade and of course last year's grand final win.
I head up to Cairns a fair bit to see family and now everyone up there is a Cowboys fan. I pull them up on it all the time and remind them, 'You were a Broncos supporter'.
When I was a young kid I remember the Cowboys approaching players from Cairns and trying to get a team together which was always a goal considering the footy in North Queensland is so massive.
My brother Clinton was going to go to the Cowboys but they kept mucking him around and then when I came through I realised what had happened. They didn't end up signing him so after seeing that I didn't really want to go there.
Because I was a Cairns boy they tried to get me for a long time and invited us down to games and all that type of stuff but in my mind I always wanted to come down to the Broncos.
I had to do the right thing by the Cowboys and North Queensland and wait three months before I was allowed to sign anywhere else but as soon as that expired I signed with the Broncos and moved down to Brisbane.
The first time I played against the Cowboys was in 2001 in Brisbane and I scored a try in a 50-6 Broncos win, but the old big brother-little brother rivalry has come a long way since then. I won the first six games that I played against the Cowboys but since 2006 my personal ledger read seven wins and nine losses, which shows how far they have come.
Last year's grand final only helps to make that rivalry even bigger than it used to be. To play in the first semi-final and then meet again in the grand final and to get beaten in the last eight seconds makes the boys even more fired up and this Friday night is going to be a massive game for both sides. You're going to really see some boys going hammer and tongs.
Both teams have started the year well with only the one hiccup each and providing they have a good run with injuries I don't see any reason why they can't both be there again on the big day this year.
The Broncos are probably the ones who are hungrier because we're the ones that fell short last year although last week's loss to Penrith will be something of a wake-up call.
Their standards probably dropped a bit in the second half against Penrith. They weren't defending like they normally do and hitting the ball up like they normally do so it was a lesson in that when you have a team on the ropes you have to put them to the sword.
As for the Cowboys, we won't know until midway through the season when they have to start playing with injuries whether they still have that desire and passion to pay the price needed to win a premiership.
When you achieve that dream of being the team that wins it all your motivation levels drop a little bit and you don't have that same desire or want to pay the same price that you did the first time.
I'll be there in the stands on Friday night to see the grand final rematch; I just hope the Broncos can get a little bit of revenge for last year.
There are a few teams that have caught my eye the first three weeks of the season, although the teams that I thought would go good are on the bottom of the ladder. Melbourne and Canberra have both started the season really well, especially the Raiders. They lost their halves the first week of the season and have since had a win and a draw which is a great effort.
The other team that really stands out for me is Penrith. I know they've only got the one win but the win last week against Brisbane and the narrow loss to the Bulldogs considering all the players they've got out injured showed a lot of heart. I've never seen a team come together so quickly like they did in that Bulldogs game and they were just unlucky that they got run down in the final minute.
Trust me, I know how bad that feels.
Once they get all their players back they're going to be a really good side.
Broncos and Queensland legend Justin Hodges co-hosts League Nation Live which airs on NITV every Tuesday night at 7.30pm.