Qld’s State of Origin preparations are in crisis, with a legend fearing he will be sacked by new coach Wayne Bennett.
Qld’s State of Origin preparations are in crisis, with a legend fearing he will be sacked by new coach Wayne Bennett.

Legend fears for job as Bennett cleans Kevvie’s house

Maroons legend Justin Hodges fears he could be sacked by Wayne Bennett as Queensland plunged into crisis a month out from the State of Origin series.

The Courier-Mail can reveal Hodges has been left in limbo as Bennett ponders making changes to the Maroons set-up after replacing Broncos-bound Kevin Walters as Queensland coach.

Hodges served as Walters' assistant last year, with Johnathan Thurston and Billy Slater also involved, but has not been guaranteed his role following Bennett's appointment for the 2020 series.

 

The Maroons have also been unable to name a train-on squad, scrapping multiple planned announcements over the past week as Queensland's injury crisis deepened.

Newcastle star Kalyn Ponga (shoulder) became the latest Maroons player to come under an injury cloud, joining the likes of Michael Morgan, Kyle Feldt, Moses Mbye and David Fifita in the casualty ward along with the suspended Valentine Holmes.

There is also speculation Bennett will axe 14-game forward Josh McGuire from Queensland's 27-man squad in what would be a shock decision given the shortage of experienced Origin players.

Hodges, a 24-game Maroons representative, said he would be "shattered" if Bennett axed him.

"I don't know yet, with Wayne being the coach and 'Kevvie' gone we are sitting around waiting to see if he's going to change the staff," Hodges said.

"I'd love to stay but you know what it's like when a new coach comes in, they like to bring their own people in.

"We've got no idea at the moment. Even the 27-man squad hasn't been announced because Wayne wants time to look at it. He is looking at everything.

"Wayne and I are all good, we are fine, our relationship is good.

"But the chances are a little bit slim. He might want to bring his own person in. I would be shattered to lose it but that's coaching."

 

Assistant coach Justin Hodges fears Wayne Bennett will sack him for this year’s series. Picture: Adam Head
Assistant coach Justin Hodges fears Wayne Bennett will sack him for this year’s series. Picture: Adam Head

 

Bennett refused to talk about his plans for Queensland on Tuesday as he prepares South Sydney for Saturday's elimination final against Parramatta at Bankwest Stadium.

The Blues promptly named the first members of their train-on squad following the finish of the regular season and added to it after week one of the finals.

A number of prospective Queensland players have been told they will be named in the squad and have continued to train at their clubs following the end of the home-and-away season.

But with Queensland losing the past two series, the Maroons seem behind the eight-ball in their preparations ahead of entering their Origin "bubble" on the Gold Coast from October 25.

Queensland Rugby League CEO Robert Moore said the squad naming had been delayed by the coaching change announced last Friday.

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"Our plans were to do it every week but with the change of coach and injuries on the weekend it has slowed it up a little bit. The intention is still to do that," he said.

"We were due to release the start of the squad last week, but with the change of coaches it wasn't appropriate to put a squad out. The two coaches hadn't had time to talk about it.

"There were some games over the long weekend and some injuries so there's been a delay today.

"There's no concerns about the change, but we owe it to Wayne to get his head across the players that have been in the mix over a period of time.

"Bear in mind we don't have a great number to choose from. There's nothing controversial about it. We just need to get through that process with Wayne.

 

New Queensland coach Wayne Bennett has been forced to delay squad naming. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty
New Queensland coach Wayne Bennett has been forced to delay squad naming. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty

 

"There were a couple of concerning injuries over the weekend."

With the series to begin in Adelaide on November 4, Walters will remain involved with the Maroons over the coming weeks before shifting his focus full-time to the Broncos.

Moore confirmed Bennett could hire new staff to assist him in his one-series cameo.

"We're still working through that at the moment, there had been no decisions made on that late last week," he said.

"Wayne may have someone he wants to bring in, but it's not something we've talked about yet. He was just getting his head across what's been done as of last Friday when we made the announcement.

"He also has commitments with Souths."

Originally published as Legend fears for job as Bennett cleans Kevvie's house


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