A personal battle, which was played out in rugby league's fiercest arena, is set to have its "biggest" chapter written tonight when Matt Cooper and long-time sparring partner Justin Hodges get reacquainted.
Cooper has regularly tangled with Hodges when on opposite sides of the State Of Origin ledger, with the latter bursting on to the international stage shortly after Cooper played the last of his seven Tests for Australia in 2006.
They might only be confined to club duties at WIN Stadium with their respective sides tonight, but Cooper is anticipating a typically frosty welcome from Hodges.
"This battle has been going for years and it's only going to be bigger [tonight]," Cooper said.
"Hodgo's in great form. He had a really good game last week and it's my job to try to stop him. I'll be out there trying my best."
Hodges was at his menacing best as the Broncos toyed with Manly in the first half of their season opener last Friday before the Sea Eagles' 22-14 win at Suncorp Stadium.
Quizzed on whether Hodges would try to verbally unsettle a veteran centre like Cooper, the 33-year-old said: "We've got that mutual respect there. He never says anything to me on the field.
"We're pretty good mates and we'll just go out there and play our natural game, try to get on top of each other. Nothing will be said."
St George Illawarra coach Steve Price and his players are refusing to hit the panic button after an energy-sapping loss to Melbourne on the back of two trial defeats.
But Cooper conceded the Broncos clash will take on extra importance with the Dragons desperate to provide some much-needed cheer to their fans on a return to Wollongong.
"We knew we were going to have a tough start to the season with Melbourne, Brisbane and the Sharkies [in round four]," Cooper said.
Live blog Dragons v Broncos 7.30pm at www.illawarramercury.com.au