RUNNER: Justin Hodges talks to Michael Morgan and Corey Oates during game one in Brisbane.
RUNNER: Justin Hodges talks to Michael Morgan and Corey Oates during game one in Brisbane. Annette Dew

Hodges plays it cool with new Maroons

JUSTIN Hodges was never one to be overawed by the big occasion as a player.

The Broncos and Maroons great is now bringing a calmness to the current Queensland crop as assistant coach to Kevin Walters.

"I go in there relaxed and calm. That's the way I've always played," Hodges said. "Just do my job to the best of my ability, help the boys out, encourage them to relax as well."

Hodges, taking a week off commitments with Fox League, was invited by Walters this year to join his coaching staff.

"It's something that I've always wanted to do," he said.

"At that (Origin) level, it's just about making sure everyone's happy, comfortable in their own role, and what they've got to do to get their own preparation right.

"Bring them all together, make them believe in each other, and support each other. We were able to do that in game one

"But we face a big task in game two. We've got to be even better."

The Blues impressed in the opening exchanges of game one. Picture: Cameron Spencer
The Blues impressed in the opening exchanges of game one. Picture: Cameron Spencer

There's plenty to improve on for the Maroons after giving the Blues a start in game one in Brisbane. They were down 8-0 at the break.

"The first 20 minutes we gave NSW a lot of ball," the 24-game former Maroon said.

"With a side like that you've got to minimise that as much as you can, get everyone to make their individual tackles."

The Maroons missed 49 tackles in the opener to the Blues' 30.

Hodges was as surprised as any that the Blues omitted Latrell Mitchell after one poor Origin showing.

"He's human too ... he has off days," Hodges said.

"He's the best centre in the game. He only needs a little bit of encouragement, a bit of hope, and he can feed off that."

Cherry-Evans talks to his team at training. Pics Adam Head
Cherry-Evans talks to his team at training. Pics Adam Head

Hodges, meanwhile, lauded the captaincy of Maroons skipper Daly Cherry-Evans.

"His energy and the way he conducts himself ... the way he speaks, the players really listen to him," Hodges said.

"It's a real indication of a good leader when your captain talks and everyone listens. I think he's done a fantastic job."

Hodges said it had been an eye-opening experience to see how much work the coaching staff puts in.

"When you're a player you come in and all you're worried about is playing the game," he said.

"When you're a coach, there's so much more .... making sure everyone's happy, having the right food, got the right game plan.

"That's opened my eyes, just how much work there is behind the scenes, all the work Kevvie does. (But) if you don't do your job, you can't ask your players to do theirs."

News Corp Australia


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