IF it were any player other than Justin Hodges, Queensland's State of Origin selectors might hit the panic button.
Brisbane coach Anthony Griffin dropped a mini bombshell yesterday, revealing his gun centre and on-field leader was still up to eight weeks away from returning from his second major Achilles injury in three years.
The way Hodges had been training at Red Hill this week had some observers speculating on a surprise late inclusion in Brisbane's side to play Canterbury at ANZ Stadium tonight, or at least an early comeback at home next Friday night against the Cowboys.
But Griffin doused any hope of an early return by saying, "Hodgo is still way off".
Hodges turns 32 three days before game one of this year's interstate series in Brisbane on May 28.
As much as Griffin would love to have his co-captain back sooner, he said a more realistic time frame for a return for the 200-game plus veteran would be round seven against Newcastle, or the following round against Souths at Suncorp Stadium on April 25.
With Melbourne Storm back-up Justin O'Neill undergoing minor knee surgery following the Auckland Nines, Queensland's depth in the outside backs could be tested without Hodges (pictured).
Selector Gene Miles was confident, however, that Hodges would be ready for Queensland's shot at nine consecutive Origin series victories.
"Hodgo is on record as saying he will do everything within his power to play in Origin 1," Miles told APN.
"Even if he didn't play until round seven or eight, he'd still have two or three games before the first Origin."
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