Updated lineups for Saturday's #PacificTest double header.
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9 hours ago
Centre Justin Hodges, battling his way back from knee surgery, was carried off the Broncos training paddock by teammates on Saturday.
But the only tears were those of laughter from the rest of the Broncos side as Hodges joked around for the throng of TV cameras following his positive fitness test at Oki Jubilee Stadium.
Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett said he was "pretty sure" Hodges would take his place in the centres alongside Shaun Berrigan after emerging from their pre-match training session with flying colours.
And winger Steve Michaels also looked set to become a late inclusion in the starting side, possibly at the expense of Scott Minto, against the Tigers at Aussie Stadium on Sunday after training strongly at Kogarah's Oki Jubilee Stadium.
But speedster Leon Bott did not fly down with the team this week after being named in the squad.
Despite not being named in the initial 20-man squad, Hodges arrived in Brisbane with the team on Thursday just 12 days after knee surgery.
Although initially rated a "30 per cent chance" of playing, Hodges was all but given the green light by Bennett on Saturday.
"I think so. If he wakes up in the morning and he's not sore then he'll play. I'm pretty sure he is going to play," Bennett said.
"There's no risk, you can't damage it any more. Not that injury."
Brisbane physiotherapist Rob Godbolt said Hodges was a "strong chance" of playing and couldn't see any problem with the former Queensland Origin star lining up against the Tigers.
Hodges started the training session with Godbolt before spending the last 20 minutes with the rest of the squad.
He then went through a drill where he was tackled by giant backrower Brad Thorn and potential replacement Michaels under the watchful eye of Bennett before having a long discussion with the head coach.
Bennett whittled his bench down to Casey McGuire, Corey Parker, Dane Carlaw and Sam Thaiday, cutting Bott and Berrick Barnes.
It was a massive bench set to counter the high-flying but smaller Tigers who have been the talk of Sydney since opening their maiden finals campaign with a 50-6 win over North Queensland last weekend.
Brisbane has lost six straight games and hasn't won a finals match since 2002 - a run of five consecutive playoff defeats
If poker-faced Bennett was worried about his team's form, it didn't show.
"We wouldn't be here if we didn't have pride so that's not an issue ... no-one's talking about the last time we had a finals win," he said.
"We've got an opportunity tomorrow and that's all we need. We will get it right then.
"That's what makes the finals so special, there's no tomorrows for either team."
Asked if he backed the view of former Bronco Peter Ryan - who has helped train the Brisbane forwards this week - that if the Tigers pack was threatened early it tended to "go missing", Bennett said: "Pete's a bit out of touch".
Even the Tigers' exciting brand of football led by Benji Marshall and former Bronco Scott Prince couldn't get a reaction from Bennett.
Asked about the Tigers' huge finals win over the Cowboys, Bennett said: "I don't know, I didn't really take a lot of notice of them.
"I really didn't. They've been playing good football all season and they will be good tomorrow. We know what they can do.
Asked how can the Tigers be stopped, Bennett said: "Ask me at 6.30pm on Sunday, I might have an answer for you."