Stand tough, Hodges urges 20s
New Queensland Under 20s coach Justin Hodges will demand that his players embody the spirit of the Maroons and make a statement in the opening 20 minutes when they face the Blues in the curtain-raiser to the Holden State of Origin Series opener at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday night.
Hodges named his side on Tuesday and it boasts two players with NRL experience, a host of others who have played in open company at the NRL Auckland Nines, and Tristan Sailor, son of Maroons legend Wendell Sailor.
Despite the talent that is produced through the junior age groups every year in Queensland, the Maroons are yet to register a win since the inception of the Under 20s Origin concept in 2012 and Hodges believes they have been unable to recover after being intimidated in the opening exchanges.
'Over the last three or four years they've been intimidated'
With Scott Prince as his assistant coach and Lote Tuqiri around the team in a mentoring capacity, Hodges will use his first major coaching appointment to indoctrinate his team in what makes a Queensland Origin player, starting with how they handle the frenetic first quarter.
"It's vital that we at least compete. The one thing that I want to see from the boys is them competing," Hodges told NRL.com.
"Over the last three or four years they've been intimidated by NSW. They've been intimidated by the bigger pack, they've been intimidated by their line speed, their hits, their pushing and shoving and all that type of stuff.
"That's where they've lost the game, that first 20 minutes because they've just been out-muscled and scared out of the game.
"For me it's about standing up which is the Queensland way. No one takes a backward step. If NSW take a step forward we're going to take two steps forward and that's what I want them to believe in because that's what Queensland players do in State of Origin football.
"Seventeen is always stronger than a couple of individuals so I'll make sure that they all really get that.
"That's what State of Origin is built on, that mateship and that trust and aggression that goes into an Origin match."
Brodie Croft, Gehamat Shibasaki, Bernard Lewis and Jaydn Su'a all return from the team that was defeated 36-22 at ANZ Stadium last year with the Broncos and Titans providing 10 players in the 18-man squad.
'Every time you play for Queensland it's a very special event'
Hodges represented Queensland on 24 occasions in the Origin arena and is determined to give the next generation a taste that will make them want to crave more when they graduate to the senior grades.
"I've been lucky enough to have been given permission from Mal [Meninga] and the QRL to show the boys what we created back in 2006, our team values, our team goals, our culture, so I got to pass that down to the 20s," Hodges said.
"After the 20s their only chance of playing for Queensland is in the State of Origin so for me it’s about making sure that when they come into camp it's not just another game.
"Every time you play for Queensland it's a very special event and you've got to make sure that these guys really cherish the moment and understand that this is much more than your regular game. It's a State of Origin Under 20s game.
"You're representing Queensland so you're representing everyone who is a part of Queensland and it's going to be a special moment for them. It's going to be something that they hold very high."