Hodges: Credit to the wingers

The old joke used to be that wingers were a footballer's best friend but there's no question that their importance in the modern game has grown incredibly in recent years.

Watching Eels sensation Semi Radradra put four tries on the Broncos last week – something that has only ever been done twice against Brisbane – was something else and then we had Jordan Rapana score a hat-trick against Newcastle and both Storm wingers, Suliasi Vunivalu and Josh Addo-Carr, each score three against Souths 24 hours later.

Every week of the Telstra Premiership there is another spectacular winger's try to behold and I've got no doubt that the changing of the corner-post rule has had a massive influence on what wingers are now capable of producing.

Back when I started playing you knew that as soon as you touched the corner post you were considered out so you were less inclined to push the play to the very corners. Now, though, you can flirt with that danger of the sideline knowing the freakish ability guys have today to jump in the air and turn their bodies to one side and place the ball down.

That rule change has really opened the game up for our wingers to have a crack at it.

The other change that we have seen in the wingers in recent times is their importance in taking early carries to get their team on the front foot but I think the days of the really big wingers are starting to disappear.

Guys like Eric Grothe back in the '80s and big Manu Vatuvei brought something special to the position but the wingers we've got now are more skilful, they're a bit more agile on their feet and they've got that skill and knack of twisting their bodies in all different ways to get the ball down.

Back in the day at the Broncos we first had Brett Plowman and then of course Wendell Sailor and Lote Tuqiri who were like having an extra two forwards in your team, carting the ball up and getting us out of trouble.

That's a role Corey Oates does really well for the current team. I've seen plenty of times when the boys have been struggling to get out of their own end and he comes up with a big charge and even though guys try and put a shot on him he gets down low and keeps pushing forward to get those extra metres.

My favourite winger was always Noa Nadruku from the Raiders. I thought he was unbelievable the way that he ran and his speed and ability to beat players and 'Chicka' Ferguson was another one I really loved watching. Every time those two got the ball you knew something was going to happen.

Suliasi Vunivalu and Josh Addo-Carr are both near the top of the try-scoring list this year but a large part of that comes from knowing their role within the Melbourne Storm and doing their job each and every week.

They know they don't have to do anything special, they just have to know their line, hold their line and with the players they've got inside them they get plenty of chances to score tries.

Playing under Craig Bellamy, Addo-Carr's career hasn't just gone to another level but up a number of levels to the point where he is probably one of the best wingers in the competition right now.

I'm not sure we'll ever stop completely teasing wingers but you've got to give credit where it's due. Their skill level and ability to read a game is a lot better than it used to be and because they have more confidence now to try things their athletic ability comes out and we see these spectacular plays from them every week.

Final thought

There are all sorts of permutations that can change the final top eight this weekend but the Cowboys need to make sure they don't get a score put on them by the Broncos on Thursday night. I know the Brisbane boys are keen to make up for last week but as we know these games have a tendency to go right down to the wire which could work in North Queensland's favour. The Sea Eagles' defence is leaking too many points at the moment so I think the Panthers can knock them over on Saturday and the Dragons' for-and-against means that if they win over the Bulldogs on Sunday they'll play finals footy. There's only 10 points between Manly and the Cowboys in terms of for-and-against so if the Cowboys lose but can keep it close, Manly will be the ones who miss out.