Hodges: Origin tougher than ever


It might be the year the NRL has tried to ban fighting but Queensland veteran Justin Hodges has rated the 2013 State of Origin series the most explosive of his career.

The NRL tried to come down hard with a ‘one punch and you’re off’ rule in the wake of New South Wales skipper Paul Gallen‘s ‘biff’ with Nate Myles in Game I but it did not deter Blues forward Trent Merrin in Game II.

His combination on Queensland’s Brent Tate resulted in an all-out brawl, with four players sin-binned – including Hodges.

“There have been a couple of fights here and there but – when there is so much on the line, so much pressure – sometimes emotions do boil over,” Hodges told the Australian Associated Press.

“It’s Origin footy and it is something that you will have to expect.”

Hodges has been involved in a number of fights since his Origin debut in 2002 but he believes the current series eclipses the previous 10 when it comes to that ‘extra feeling’.

“Every year is tough but this year has probably been the toughest,” said the Brisbane centre.

That trend does not look like ending in the decider with a lot of talk of a rivalry between New South Wales half-back Mitchell Pearce and Maroons full-back Billy Slater in the media.

Hodges said, “Mitch will probably come after him (Slater), but it’s Origin so we will just have to deal with it.

“Billy will always have a target on his head because he is such a great player. Whenever you come up against a great player, you have to put them off their game.

“That’s something NSW have been trying to do for years and this game will be no different.”


Due to injury problems New South Wales coach Laurie Daley has been forced to name an extended 20-man squad for next Wednesday’s decider.

Captain Paul Gallen (foot), back rower Greg Bird (foot) and winger Jarryd Hayne (hamstring) are all in doubt for next week’s game at the ANZ Stadium, so Daley has included Wests Tigers prop Aaron Woods, Newcastle winger James McManus and Sydney Roosters back rower Boyd Cordner as insurance.

Meanwhile, Queensland coach Mal Meninga has named the same squad from Game II.

New South Wales squad: Jarryd Hayne, Brett Morris, Michael Jennings, Josh Morris, Josh Dugan, James Maloney, Mitchell Pearce, Paul Gallen (capt), Robbie Farah, James Tamou, Luke Lewis, Ryan Hoffman, Greg Bird. Interchange: Andrew Fifita, Anthony Watmough, Trent Merrin, Aaron Woods, Josh Reynolds, James McManus, Boyd Cordner.

Queensland squad: Billy Slater, Darius Boyd, Greg Inglis, Justin Hodges, Brent Tate, Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk, Matt Scott, Cameron Smith (capt), Nate Myles, Chris McQueen, Sam Thaiday, Corey Parker. Interchange: Daly Cherry-Evans, Ben Te’o, Matt Gillett, Josh Papalii, Jacob Lillyman, Will Chambers.