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Justin Hodges celebrates with his Australian Catholic University team after his first win as a coach.

On Wednesday night last week I achieved something in rugby league that I never had before: I coached a team to a win.

My good mate Jharal Yow Yeh and I have taken the reins of Australian Catholic University in the Universities Rugby League Queensland competition and after two losses first up to get a win against last year's runners up University of Queensland was like we were back playing again.

Even driving home we were that excited because it is a different rush than what you get from playing and I'd never experienced that type of rush before.

When we first took the job on it was a bit of a nightmare because none of the boys knew what position they wanted to play or where to defend.

We ran 13 against 13 in a training session and we had forwards standing out in the backline with no real idea of how to defend properly.

Our first step was to go through some passing skills to see where the boys were at and because we've got quite a few union boys to teach them to tackle up top and not down low.

The first two games were a learning curve for Jharal and I but I had a good chat to them after the last training run last week, trying to get them to buy into the system and own it and to make sure they rallied behind each other, especially after a mistake.

The best thing about our job is that we want to know we're improving these guys and making them better so to see them go on and have a good win against a pretty good side was really satisfying.

The first time I gave any thought to going into coaching after I stopped playing was in 2011 in Newcastle.

I was there to watch Anthony Mundine fight and his manager, Khoder Nasser, mentioned to me that no Indigenous person had ever coached a team to a premiership.

I was aware that there were very few Indigenous coaches or assistant coaches in the NRL but given all the great Indigenous players we have had in our game to hear no Indigenous coach had ever won a comp really struck a chord with me.

Having one more year under Wayne Bennett at the Broncos last year was invaluable as Wayne impressed on me the need to relax a bit more and really get to know your players.

That's what I've learnt off both Wayne and Mal Meninga, how much time they spend with their players and how they get to know them as people.

That's what it's all about. You've got to get the trust of your players to make sure they love and respect you and that way your players will always dig in for you.

I have to do my time and work my way up through the ranks but I definitely want to have Jharal with me along the way.

Jharal has got a really good footy brain and his best quality is that he mixes with any sort of people and that's something that you need as a coach.

I see the way he interacts with kids and people of all ages, especially the guys at ACU, and we both see this as something that we want to do for a long time.

We may not quite be ready to take over from Wayne when he does finally step down as head coach of the Broncos but being the first Indigenous coaches to win a premiership is certainly a long-term goal we will strive for.


I haven't missed playing at club level yet since retiring but when the Queensland boys go into Origin camp next week I'll definitely be wishing I was with them.

Having the chance to hang out with the boys and relax for 10 days before a game was my favourite time of year but I won't be totally out of the Origin scene.

Queensland under-16s coach Kurt Richards has asked me to come into camp and help out his outside backs so I'm looking forward to spending some time with those guys and hopefully help them to a win over the Blues.

And who knows, if the senior boys want to go somewhere and they've got the keys to the team bus I might just step up and have a go.

Broncos and Queensland legend Justin Hodges co-hosts League Nation Live on NITV every Tuesday night at 7.30pm.


Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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