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by Dan Koch, Wednesday December 22, 2004

Retired Broncos skipper Gorden Tallis has dismissed concerns over the club’s re-hiring of talented three-quarter Justin Hodges, saying he expects “big things” from the former State of Origin star.


Hodges’ acrimonious departure from Red Hill three years ago and combined with a disappointing season on the field in 2004 left some Broncos fans questioning the merits of allowing the 22-year-old to return.


But Tallis believes returning “home” to Brisbane and working under coach Wayne Bennett will see Hodges rediscover the form which saw many labeling him the best centre in the game in 2003.


"The people who are doubting Wayne's decision to bring Justin back are the same ones who blew up when the Roosters got under our guard and signed him," said Tallis.

"Justin is a wonderful player, he had knee surgery last year and probably didn't have as much pre-season training as he needed.

"By his standards, he didn't have a great season. But I just look back a bit earlier and I know what he's got inside of him and I know it can come back out."

Tallis was hopeful the sledging controversies which have plagued Hodges in recent season would be a thing of the past once he has settled back into the “Broncos family”.


"I'm positive he can turn it around," said Tallis, who left St George to play out his career for Brisbane to be closer to his family and friends.

"The environment here will help, he'll be around his family and friends and be able to relax so much more.

"When you come from north
Queensland, a place like Sydney can get you down after a while.

"I think he’ll prove a lot of people wrong”


Meanwhile, Hodges’ former captain at the Roosters, Brad Fittler, has put massive pressure on the man expected to take his five-eighth position at the tri-colours next season.


Fittler believes 2005 will be a breakthrough season for former Cronulla and St George half Brett Firman, going as far as to compare him to champion Bronco Darren Lockyer.


Firman, who has battled serious injuries in recent years, is likely to partner Brett Finch in the halves for the Roosters next year, with fellow recruits Amos Roberts and Joel Monaghan giving an imposing look to the backline of the 2004 runners-up.  


"I think Firman can be a bit like a Darren Lockyer," Fittler said.

"I think he's got that in him. I hope he can because we've got so much to utilise out wide, speedwise."