Greg Inglis was so convinced that good mate Justin Hodges was retiring from the NRL a year too early that he offered to finish his career in Brisbane so they could have one season together at the Broncos.
To this day Hodges doesn’t know if his former Queensland and Australian teammate was serious, but like Inglis on Monday, he knew at that point there was no turning back.
Johnathan Thurston’s extra-time field goal in the 2015 Grand Final was all that stood between Hodges and the ultimate fairy tale farewell.
Now Inglis has been forced to call time on his glittering career just five games into a season that was never intended to be his last.
The Rabbitohs and Maroons captain leaves the game as one of its most decorated and adored stars - and with many of his contemporaries in shock.
Hodges has been one of Inglis’s most trusted confidants since the pair became Queensland teammates for the first time in the 2006 Origin Series and admitted that he too was caught off guard by Monday’s announcement.
“He’s done everything in the game that he needed to do but to be honest I didn’t really see it coming,” Hodges told NRL.com.
“I spoke to him a while ago and he was happy with the decision he’d made to retire at the end of next year.
“It was a long battle for him in terms of all his injuries and once you lose that passion for turning up to training and paying the price, putting your body through so much, it becomes a bit draining.
“He’s not just played 270 NRL games, he’s played 30 and 30 for Australia and Queensland. That’s a lot of football that he’s played and it’s taken its toll on him.
“We’ve always supported each other and it’s a sad time for me too because even though I’ve been retired for four years I’ve been watching Greggy in awe of what he’s been able to achieve.
“It’s a sad moment but it’s also a positive one because he gets to move on to the next stage of his life.”
It was four years ago that Hodges was faced with the same agonising decision.
Barely able to train due to the wear and tear on his knees, Hodges confided in Inglis during the 2015 State of Origin Series that he would not be back i n 2016.
Inglis responded with an extraordinary offer to leave South Sydney and join his mate at the Broncos.
When Inglis left the Storm at the end of the 2010 season he was destined to join Brisbane until an 11th-hour change of heart delivered him to Redfern where he played 146 games for the Rabbitohs and won the 2014 Telstra Premiership.
GI calls time on career
Yet as Hodges reveals, he very nearly chose to finish his career as a Bronco.
“I remember the first time I told him I was going to retire was in Origin camp,” Hodges revealed.
“He said, ‘What do you mean?’ And I told him that I was retiring and he said, ‘How about I move up and play with you for another year?’ I told him that it wasn’t about that, my body had had enough.
“That’s the respect we had for each other. He wanted me to keep playing because it drove him as well.
“We always spoke to each other about our games and we tried to help each other and the past three or four seasons we haven’t had that because it’s only been me talking about his game.
“He was one of the first people to know that I was going to retire. It was a sad moment for him but like he said today, it was an incredible journey. I did things I never dreamed of as a kid watching rugby league.
“You can’t be disappointed with that.”
On 14 occasions the Queensland centre combination consisted of Inglis and Hodges but it was Inglis’s second game as the Maroons’ fullback in Game 3 2015 that remains Hodges’ favourite on-field memory together.
"Billy Slater was out for that game," said Hodges, who also counts being in the Rabbitohs sheds following their 2014 Grand Final win as another treasured memory.
"It was 1-all coming up to Suncorp Stadium and I said to Greg, ‘I can’t lose this game. It will haunt me for the rest of my life.’
“He just turned around and said, ‘Don’t worry bruz, I got ya.’ Those calming words and his presence all week in camp made it so special so that game will always stick out in my mind.
“The impact he’s had on my career, he’s made me a better person and a better player just for sharing those moments on the football field and playing against him those few times.
“He’ll go down as one of Queensland’s greatest players and that’s the stature that he leaves in the game.
“I look forward to celebrating with him, the next chapter."