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Hodges: Emotions run high for young and old

FIERY FORWARD: Dylan Napa during a Maroons training session at Sanctuary Cove.
FIERY FORWARD: Dylan Napa during a Maroons training session at Sanctuary Cove. Bradley Kanaris

I CAN'T wait to see big Queenslander Dylan Napa let loose on the Blues.

The Roosters prop is made for State of Origin football.

He's going to be like a firecracker in his debut.

The Maroons had an opposed session against our 20s boys last week and he was whacking them.

We had to tell him to relax.

If he can control his emotions tonight he is going to be damaging.

My debut in 2002 wasn't too good. At 19, I was probably overawed by the occasion.

There's no better place to play Origin than at Suncorp Stadium.

ANZ Stadium is a good ground but it's bigger and doesn't have the atmosphere.

At Suncorp everyone is sitting on top of you. It is electric.

But the pressure of Game 1 will be enormous.

Just what's at stake is all built up in the press. If you lose you're going to feel like you've let everyone down.

But then you've got to try to pick yourself up and play for your club.

Then you come back into camp, being one down and trying to find a way to win.

Johnathan Thurston, Corey Parker, Greg Inglis and Matt Scott leave a big hole in the Maroons side.

But we've still got the experience of Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Darius Boyd, and Nate Myles will be leading the pack with Sammy Thaiday.

Those core guys, who have been there for so long, will take over when the game is on the line

Queensland will take 210 games of Origin experience into game one compared to New South Wales' 108.

Of course, it helps when you've got Smith who's played 40.

 

Cameron Smith at Maroons camp. Photo: AAP
Cameron Smith at Maroons camp. Photo: AAP

 

It's a feat that will probably never be achieved again.

Greg Inglis, who has played 30 and is still only 30 years of age, will go close if he can get back from his knee injury.

You've got to play 14 or 15 seasons to reach that mark.

It shows how versatile Smith is.

He's not a big strong guy, but he's just the ultimate professional and a hell of a competitor.

Whether you've played one, five or 40 games like Smith, it's always a special moment playing for the Maroons.

It always feels like you're playing your first.

Walking into the change room gives you chills up and down your spine.

You see your jersey. You see the plaque with your name on it and the names of all the players who have worn that jumper.

It's a jersey we hold in such high regard. Most players almost come to tears when we talk about it.

When you warm up, it's like a cone of silence. You can hear a pin drop.

Then as those doors open, there's the big roar reverberating through the change room. It is unbelievable.

It doesn't just mean everything to us, but also our families and the whole state.

You've got to make sure that no matter where a Queenslander is in the world, they wake up proud, wake up knowing they can brag you've done the job for them.

NRL Tonight Origin Special: LIVE from Suncorp Stadium from 6.30pm tonight on FOX SPORTS News 500

NRL 360: Kevin Walters & Laurie Daley join Ben Ikin & Paul Kent for a wrap up of Game 1 from 7.30pm tomorrow on FOX LEAGUE

Topics:  justin hodges queensland maroons state of origin 2017

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