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PJ out, Hodges in doubt for Broncos
Darren Lockyer's role in Friday night's NRL blockbuster against Melbourne remained a mystery after Brisbane ruled out hooker PJ Marsh and braced itself for the loss of Test centre Justin Hodges.
The clash of the 2006 grand finalists with an intense dislike for each other was spiced up this week with news Storm's boom teenager Israel Folau would head to Brisbane next season.
With persistent speculation Melbourne's coach Craig Bellamy and captain Cameron Smith would also end up at the Broncos, it's not hard to see why bad blood exists between the two NRL clubs.
Branded with introducing the outlawed grapple and crusher tackles, Melbourne was fuming Thursday at claims they'd come up with yet another sinister tackle - this one quickly dubbed the "chicken wing" because the attacker free arm is bent back putting pressure on the shoulder.
Videos of the tackle, already decried by former hard men like Gorden Tallis, have been sent to NRL officials to investigate.
Storm chief executive Brian Waldron who invited Brisbane to "bring it on" after Folau's announcement, described the chicken wing allegations as absolute rubbish.
The dramas have set the scene for a bitter 80 minutes at Olympic Park on Friday night.
"We love those situations," said assistant coach Ivan Henjak when asked about relations between the clubs.
"As a player you love playing in an atmosphere you know that's going to be physical and intense.
"It all adds a little bit of spice."
Melbourne thrashed Brisbane 40-0 in a quarter final last year but Henjak said the Broncos were well below their best on that occasion.
"Last year we were fairly well busted up and hanging together threads and lacking confidence," he said.
"We're going into this game in a little better shape."
Hodges (knee soreness) travelled with the team to Melbourne on Thursday but will be officially ruled out on Friday.
A decision on Lockyer's part in the clash, if any, will be made after the team's morning team walk in Melbourne on Friday.
His right knee is still causing his problems, and while it's not structural, it's painful enough for Brisbane's medical staff to want to err on the side of caution.
Lockyer pulled out of last Friday's win over the Cowboys after two previous starts off the bench and while he trained strongly on Thursday Henjak could not guarantee his involvement against the Storm.
"He was sore last week and we were confident he'd play," said Henjak.
"We'll monitor him after our walk tomorrow.
"We just want to see what the pain is like in the knee before we make a decision.
"We don't want to risk anything long term.
"If he's really sore he may not play again."
Henjak said Brisbane had coped well with injuries the past three weeks.
"K (Karmichael Hunt) and Lockyer were big losses last week (against the Cowboys) and we're not going to lose any confidence because we've lost one or two players," he said.
"We've handled it in the past, it's not going to be an excuse."
"We can cover it. The strength so far with our performances is that everyone's been contributing and we haven't been looking to any one person to put in a big performance.
"Everyone's doing their job really well."