Hodges backs O’Neill to return to his best
BRONCOS great Justin Hodges believes a bit more self belief is all Cowboys centre Justin O'Neill needs to return to the form which earned him Queensland and Australia honours.
Hodges believes O'Neill's confidence took a hit after he was one of a handful of players dropped by the Maroons after they were belted 28-4 in Origin I last year, and he scored just one try for the Cowboys after racking up 26 across the previous two seasons.
The Cowboys' right side of O'Neill and winger Kyle Feldt took ten rounds to score a try last year, but showed against Cronulla last week they're primed for a huge season with both crossing for four-pointers.
Hodges infamously had a shocker on debut for Queensland in 2002 and was dragged from the field by coach Wayne Bennett, but went on to represent his state 24 times.
"First of all he needs to get back to playing well with the Cows, get his head right and concentrate on the little things and get going again," Hodges said.
"The reason why he got there (rep football) is he's a good player and backs himself, I just think he lost a little bit of that.
"When you play Origin it's a massive arena and everyone's watching you, when you feel like you don't play your best game you can go into your shell and think maybe I'm not up to this level.
"He's obviously a great centre, he's got to believe in himself and get back to that standard."
The Cowboys directed most of their attack down their right edge against the Sharks and they looked dangerous, despite the fact right-side playmaker Michael Morgan (stomach) missed the game.
After a slow start to last year Feldt enlisted the help of a sports psychologist to get back on track.
It worked a treat, with the 26-year-old scoring 16 tries in his last 20 games and wiping the errors out of his game.
"I've learned what to do and if I'm ever in a hole again I can go back to what helped me get out of it before," Feldt said.
"(It's about) just trying not to get too ahead of yourself and trying not to get too angry, that's one of the biggest things.
"You can get a bit frustrated within the game and once you're frustrated it takes it out of your footy. That's what I focused on the back end of the year is not letting things get to me."
The Cowboys' depth has already come to the fore this year with Te Maire Martin and Ben Hampton proving handy replacements for injured stars Morgan and Lachlan Coote in the Cronulla win.
Young outside backs like Enari Tuala, Javid Bowen and Gideon Gela-Mosby are also keeping the incumbents on their toes.
Both players were blooded last year when injuries struck the team.
"There's so much depth we have this year and last year it showed that when someone was out, the young fellas would come in and do the job," Feldt said.
"This year is even better, we've blooded a few guys in the ranks with Enari getting a run and Gideon having a few games."