It seems everything old is new again at Brisbane.
With once and future coach Wayne Bennett watching on, Justin Hodges turned back the clock at a soggy Suncorp Stadium to lead the Broncos to a thumping 48-6 NRL win over Bennett’s Newcastle on Saturday.
While new boy Ben Barba scored an 11-minute second-half hat-trick as the Broncos ran in six tries in the final 23 minutes, it was Hodges who stood out in the nine-try to one romp.
With Josh Hoffman sidelined due an ankle injury, the 32-year-old stepped into the breach and played fullback for the first time in a Broncos jersey since Bennett’s previous era in 2006.
The result was devastating as the Queensland State of Origin representative ended the match with three try assists, four tackle busts and 123 metres from 16 runs.
Brisbane coach Anthony Griffin has six wins from eight matches against the man who’ll replace him at Red Hill.
The victory also keeps the Broncos firmly in the fight for a top-eight berth ahead of next weekend’s second-last round clash with St George Illawarra.
“We had to put someone there and he actually wanted to play there,” Griffin said of Hodges.
“He’s played fullback for us in attack, or played that role for us in attack, for a lot of periods during games this year so that wasn’t anything new to him.
“He wanted the challenge of playing there … tonight he did a good job.”
The Knights, already reeling from the ASADA doping ban absences of Kade Snowden and Jeremy Smith, suffered a crucial blow pre-game when Jarrod Mullen was ruled out with a corked calf.
Bennett praised Hodges’ display but said the loss of experienced five-eighth Mullen had been a telling one as the Broncos ran rampant in the second half.
“He (Hodges) was head and shoulders above everybody out there tonight,” Bennett said.
“We knew he was playing there. We did some practice yesterday but losing Mullen was a crucial thing for us on our right-side defence tonight.
“We just didn’t recover from that.”