Origin great Justin Hodges says it will be a massive honour to coach the Queensland Under 20s in this year’s annual interstate match against New South Wales.
A former representative centre who played 24 Origin matches for the Maroons, Hodges views the appointment as the “next step” in his coaching journey.
Since retiring at the end of the 2015 season, Hodges has been actively involved in Queensland’s development programs.
He enjoyed the opportunity to mentor Queensland’s U16 team in 2016 and earlier this year he addressed the state’s Under 20 hopefuls as part of the QAS Emerging program.
“We had a camp earlier on in the year where I spoke and you almost get brought to tears every time you speak about the Queensland jersey,” Hodges said.
“I know what it means to the players who wore it before me and when I pulled that jersey on it meant everything to me.”
Hodges said “mateship” would be the key ingredient to breaking the young Blues’ stranglehold on the Under 20s age group.
“It’s important that the boys come into camp and we create a bond and friendship that you see with the (senior) Queensland side,” he said.
“We’ve created a family where mates become mates for the rest of their lives. I want to make sure the boys really love each other, respect each other and play for each other.”
Queensland will play NSW at Suncorp Stadium on May 31 as the main curtain-raiser to the opening match of the Holden State of Origin series.
Former Maroons halfback Scott Prince will join the Under 20s camp as an assistant coach, while the experienced Paul Dyer will assume the manager’s role.
“For me, it’s about being relaxed, knowing that we’ve passed on everything we needed to during the week,” Hodges said.
“At the end of the day, it’s up to the boys to get out there and get it done. My job is making sure the players are ready to go and making them understand (the history of the jersey).”
QRL Managing Director Robert Moore congratulated Hodges on his appointment.
“It’s pleasing to see a former player with the aspirations to coach given the other opportunities that are now available to them,” Moore said.
“Justin has the passion and desire to succeed in this role and we will continue to provide him with the necessary support.”