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Hard on Hawks but Hodge finds an even higher purpose

A father to Leo, Luke Hodge is about to become a father figure to a whole list full of young Brisbane Lions players. Photo: AFL MEDIA

Hard on Hawks but Hodge finds an even higher purpose

Luke Michael    

When Luke Hodge was officially unveiled to the media on Wednesday as a Brisbane Lion, it would have been quite a jarring sight for Hawthorn fans.

The four-time premiership Hawk had been a stalwart of the club for 15 years, but was now splashed across the front of newspapers and TV screens wearing Brisbane colours.

A favourite son in an unfamiliar strip has become an all-too-familiar sight for AFL fans recently – especially for Hawks supporters – who have also watched Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis join other clubs in the twilight of their careers.

But while Hodge’s defection may rile some fans who steadfastly believe that club legends should always remain one-club players, the reality is that times have changed.

And Hodge’s move to Brisbane is undoubtedly a good thing for the game.

The Lions have been largely irrelevant this decade, failing to finish a season higher than 12th on the ladder and struggling to retain players. Coupled with the plight of Gold Coast, it paints a sobering picture for the state of Australian football in Queensland.

But with Hodge’s vast experience, tremendous leadership qualities and tactical nous, he can help begin to revitalise football in the sunshine state.

And let’s not forget Hodge’s considerable playing ability, which is still very much intact, as highlighted by his 2017 season where he averaged an impressive 23 disposals per game.

Brisbane coach Chris Fagan is certainly excited, telling reporters on Wednesday that Hodge would be deployed as an on-field coach to help the Lions develop over the next two seasons.

“[We’ll] take elements that were great at Hawthorn and try to apply them to our club’s situation,” Fagan said. “To have someone like Luke on board will help with the on-field culture, and the way he conducts himself around training and off the field will be fantastic for us.”

Hodge arrives at Brisbane at a good time, the Lions poised to begin turning their fortunes around with solid foundations now in place.

Fagan and Hodge developed a strong relationship at Hawthorn, and will now offer the Lions wonderful on-field leadership, while chief executive Greg Swann has the experience and nous to guide the club well off-field.

For so long, the Lions have been used to losing players, but this off-season they have attracted not only Hodge, but talented Adelaide goal sneak Charlie Cameron as well.

And Fagan predicts Hodge’s recruitment will be the perfect drawcard for attracting more of the sort of talent the Lions have craved for so long.

“We’re trying to become a great club and part of that is attracting great talent to our football club and we’ve been able to do that with Luke,” he said. “I’m sure that’ll send a message across the competition that Brisbane’s a good club to come to and hopefully others in time will follow his way.”

Brisbane may have won the wooden spoon in 2017, but there is still reason to be bullish about the club’s fortunes next season.

The Lions’ five wins were the highest number of wins a bottom-placed side has won in a season since 1998 – funnily enough also a year in which Brisbane took the wooden spoon with five wins and a draw.

They’re no easybeats, and if the last few AFL seasons have proved anything, it’s that it doesn’t take much for a club to make a dramatic climb up the ladder.

Hodge’s recruitment is by no means a panacea to the club’s fortunes, but it could well offer the spark needed to wake an entire club from its extended slumber. And the AFL needs Brisbane to improve rapidly, to address the decline of football in Queensland and ensure a thriving national competition.

It would have been easy enough for Hodge to walk away after achieving everything there was to achieve in the game, but he knew in his heart of hearts that he still had the passion to play on.

Had he had stayed at Hawthorn, Hodge’s last few seasons would most likely have been largely unmemorable.

But at Brisbane, he has the chance to as good as rebuild a club, returning it to somewhere near the heights it had reached when Hodge first stepped on to the AFL scene.

For this, he should be applauded. And if he is able to help turn things around with the Lions, what a remarkable addition to the already amazing legacy he has built over his storied career.

  1. Thanks fellas. Good summary. Losing another top prospect in Schache for roulette draft picks was disappointing (again) but if we can draft well with our 3 x first rounders and get Ballenden for the picks in the 40s (let’s hope he goes after 18) we’ll be on the right track. Wish you well with Footyology. Can’t wait for racing (the sport of cashed up bogans) and cricket to be over. #golions

  2. PS: Don’t waste the pick 1 on Rayner. Won’t be in the NRL state in 2020.

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