EXPERIENCED big-game campaigner Justin Hodges says a meaningless last-round loss to Melbourne has not dented Brisbane's confidence or belief it can claim a seventh premiership for the coach who has already guided the club to six titles.
Hodges, who is hoping to hang up the boots with a third premiership, and his second with the Broncos after starring at fullback in the club's last grand final win under coach Wayne Bennett in 2006, predicted a huge attitude swing against the Cowboys in Saturday's qualifying final at Suncorp Stadium.
Brisbane was clearly out of sync without halfback Ben Hunt's organisational skills and last-play options in the 15-8 loss to Melbourne last Thursday night.
But Hodges also admitted his players' minds were not "on the job", with the finals just around the corner and the result having no bearing on the team's position on the ladder.
"You could just see the intensity was not the same," Hodges told APN as Brisbane sweated on the fitness of Hunt, who reportedly has a back injury.
"We wanted to win and while the players would probably not admit publicly, the finals were in the back of their minds and we just wanted to get through the game without any major injuries.
"We didn't lose any confidence and the belief is still there."
The Cowboys, who yet again were forced to overcame a tardy start in which they trailed 12-0 before spanking the Titans 42-12, are also hoping for a green light for injured five-eighth Michael Morgan (ankle), rated a 60-40 chance to play.
The Cowboys have beaten Brisbane three times in finals in recent years, and with Morgan back in the No.6, would fancy their chances of making it four, even though bookmakers Sportsbet has the Broncos $1.60 favourites ahead of North Queensland at the seemingly generous odds of $2.30.
"They'll be very tough, they've got the best player in the world," Hodges said.
He was, of course, referring to hot Dally M medal favourite Johnathan Thurston, a Queensland teammate of Hodges and the man the Cowboys lean on the most in big games.
But the champion centre warned too much focus on Thurston would play right into the Cowboys' hands, especially if Morgan was cleared to play.
He said Morgan, hooker Jake Granville, fullback Lachlan Coote and wrecking ball James Taumalolo were all dangermen who deserved as much attention as Thurston.
Brisbane would be well aware of the threat Morgan would pose.
In 2012, he became the first halfback to score three tries in a finals match in a 36-16 week one thrashing of Brisbane, and he also scored a try last year when the Cowboys eliminated the Broncos yet again.
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