As Justin Hodges prepares to make his long-awaited return following a horrendous achilles injury that saw him sidelined for much of the 2010 season, Broncos coach Ivan Henjak has described the representative centre as a “crucial” part of the Broncos 2011 season.

After missing most of last season, there was suspicion that perhaps it was the beginning of the end for Hodges career, but he has been lighting it up at training, including the revamped version of his trademark side-step, a move that pleased both his team-mates and the coach.

“We certainly missed him last year, he’s a big part of our team,” Henjak told AAP on Monday.

“With the players we’ve lost over the last few years (primarily Karmichael Hunt and Israel Folau) he’s even more important to the side now,” added the coach, who is yet to anoint Folau’s replacement.

“His experience will be crucial to our prospects in 2011.

“With both K (Hunt) and Izzy (Folau) gone, Justin is a senior player in our backline along with Locky (Lockyer).

“Our outside backs are still very young and Justin plays a crucial role, not only what he does physically out there, but with the confidence and talk he can share with those young blokes out wide.”

Hodges team-mates, Henjak, the board, and the fans are all overjoyed that the representative centre is fit and healthy and raring to go, after what was a very long spell on the sidelines.

“We’re all excited, everyone in this organisation and every Broncos fan, we’re all looking forward to seeing him play again,” said the coach.

“It’s really encouraging to see some of the things he’s just starting to do at training … he’s starting to take it up another notch.”

Hodges has one aim in mind however, and that is to do whatever he can to get back his representative jerseys for both Queensland and Australia, and if he can get back to the form that saw he get those jerseys in the first place, then he is almost guaranteed to get the chance once more.

“I think it’s been a real frustrating time for him especially when there were doubts over whether he’d ever play again,” Henjak said.

“The signs for Justin are very good, he’s in a very good space, he’s physically in good shape, he’s enjoying training and he’s training really well.

“He’s definitely ready to go.”

By ricky

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