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Hodges backs Chambers to square ledger with Latrell

Maroons assistant coach Justin Hodges has backed centre Will Chambers to return serve and get one over NSW gun Latrell Mitchell in Wednesday's Origin opener at Suncorp Stadium.

Mitchell got the better of the Storm's veteran centre last year, as the pair engaged in several heated exchanges.

But Hodges said Chambers had added discipline to his game and was in the right mindset ahead of game one.

"I thought last year Latrell was at his height and was having one of those seasons where everything he did turned to gold," Hodges said.

"Will was a little bit off and he would openly admit that but this year I have seen a change in Will with the way he has played.

"He doesn’t have all that push and shove in his game and he is just focused on what he needs to do. Next Wednesday night is going to be no different. He just has a job to do against Latrell."

Hodges gave a clue as to how Chambers, who coach Kevin Walters confirmed would play right centre opposite Mitchell, would approach his role this time around.

"I think you have got to go low. I remember marking up against GI [Greg Inglis] and every time you used to go up top he would just palm you away," Hodges said.

"I watched a few games where guys went low and chopped Latrell’s legs off and that is where we will try and aim. Will has got to go out there and get it done. It is not as easy as it sounds but Will has just got to be aggressive."

Latrell: Freddy told me to block things out

Aggression is not a quality Chambers has lacked in any of his 10 Origin games. He has forged a career on being uncompromising and in the face of his opponents.

"He is very competitive. He has obviously learned from myself and GI and being in that system and waiting for us to retire. Now he has become the number one centre in the Queensland outfit," Hodges said.

"You’ve seen him for Melbourne switching sides [from right to left] and there are not too many centres that can do that like he has and so successfully. Everyone knows what he is like. He likes to be loud and heard."

It is the personal match-ups that Hodges relished as a player and what defines Origin clashes.

"When you look at match-ups and what you can do, my biggest thing if I was up against Matt Cooper or Michael Jennings was to make sure I was better than them on the night because that is what helped my teammates," Hodges said.

"You’ve got to rise to that challenge and I am sure that Will will do his job the best he can."

Injured Maroons insist they are fit

Mitchell has been below his best in recent club clashes for the Roosters against the Broncos and Knights. Hodges said constant speculation about his future may be behind that but tipped Mitchell to fire for the Blues.

"He has a bit of a hard time with his contract stuff and that takes away from your game when you are thinking about what is happening outside of football … but there is no doubt in my mind he will be at his best," Hodges said.

"He’s got guys like Freddy [Brad Fittler] and Andrew Johns around him, the greats of our game.

"Sometimes when you get into Origin camp it gives you a bit of belief away from clubland. You come into a different environment around great players and great people. The stuff he did last year was incredible. Hopefully he doesn’t have that form but you just want to see the kid happy. Hopefully he has a good night but not a great night."


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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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