Bronco Justin Hodges' NRL return date unclear

LAINE CLARK
Last updated 14:47 06/03/2014

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Broncos coach Anthony Griffin admits he does not know when new co-captain Justin Hodges will make his NRL return from an Achilles tendon injury.

Griffin has already attempted to solve one backline dilemma with his bold decision to name New Zealand fullback Josh Hoffman at five eighth for Friday night's NRL season opener against the Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium.

However, another may loom with strike weapon Hodges not expected back any time soon despite initially predicting a round four return.

Griffin said the Test and Queensland centre was a "way off" from playing despite returning to full training a fortnight ago.

And the man named to replace Hodges is another on the injury comeback trail, Dale Copley, who had his 2013 season ended for a knee reconstruction.

Hodges - who missed the entire 2010 season also with an Achilles injury - had hoped to return in time to be in Queensland State of Origin team contention for the series opener in Brisbane on May 28.

But Griffin could not nominate a round for Hodges' return on Thursday.

"He has done a great job rehabbing himself," he said of Hodges who snapped his Achilles in round 22 last season.

"He is getting used to the week in, week out training.

"But he is a way off."

Griffin backed Copley to fill Hodges' big shoes.

"It's great having him back, he has untapped potential," Griffin said.

"The fact he has been able to play minutes in all three trials will give him some confidence."

More backline calls are on the horizon with young utility Corey Oates's injury return looming.

The towering Oates - who is battling niggles after storming onto the NRL scene last year - can play in the centres, on the wing or the backrow.

But Griffin appeared to have a position for him in mind.

"Corey is getting close, maybe round three or four. He scored eight tries last year so I know he can play wing," said Griffin, in what must be a warning to wingers Lachlan Maranta and Daniel Vidot.

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