Former Hawthorn and Brisbane champion Luke Hodge has added another accolade to his already storied AFL career, winning the 2019 AFL Players’ Association Madden Medal, presented by The Diamond Guys. Brisbane Lions coach, Chris Fagan, and former Hawthorn teammate, Sam Mitchell, have penned an exclusive column about their experiences with the 346-gamer throughout his time at the Hawks and Lions.
CHRIS FAGAN (BRISBANE LIONS FOOTBALL CLUB)
When I arrived at Hawthorn at the end of 2007, Luke Hodge was still relatively young in a football sense.
He had been at the club since the 2001 Draft and had made himself known as a supreme competitor.
At only 23, he had emerged as one of the better players in the competition.
Throughout his career, Luke has matured a great deal.
I’m sure that other people from Hawthorn would tell you the same thing.
One of the great things about ‘Hodgey’ is that he does have a little bit of rascal in him.
Occasionally when he was a young fella he wouldn’t do the right thing and he’d learn the hard way, but it’s part of what has made him the leader he is today.
There’s a few things that standout when I think of Luke’s development during his career – a big one is his professionalism.
When he was younger, Luke had to learn and understand that if he wanted to play the game for a long time, he needed to look after his body, lose weight and condition himself.
He became a supreme professional at that right up until his very last game.
Still, as a senior member of our team, Luke was doing all that he could to be in the best shape that he could be to play.
The other area that stands out is Luke’s development as a leader.
When he first took over the reigns from Sam Mitchell, he tended to lead people by having them do things his way.
He was always brilliant at that because he was so professional but he soon learned over time that there are other idiosyncrasies to leadership that make you a great leader and a great team.
Luke worked on refining his craft to understand what makes the individuals tick and finding ways to help them get the best out of themselves as athletes and people.
Over my nine years at the Hawks, Luke and my friendship was built.
As the GM of Football, I worked closely with Luke during his stint as captain.
We had a mutual respect for each other and he saw me as a mentor and sounding board in football and life.
It seemed to me at the time to be a bit of a privilege that someone of Luke’s calibre would see me in that way, but that’s the type of person Luke is.
He looks to be challenged so he can get the most out of himself.
When his career finished at the Hawks, we were fortunate to have him join us at the Lions for two seasons.
It’s been well documented that my suggestion for him to move north was a bit of a joke at first, but, as a club, we’re grateful he took the opportunity.
He made an impact on the club immediately and created a legacy that will last for years to come.
Initially, I think people were shocked that Luke was so generous with his time. He certainly didn’t walk in the door saying, ‘I’m Luke Hodge, football legend – you get to know me’.
But rather he made the effort to get to know our group.
He spent those early weeks and months working flat out to get to know the team and build relationships with our players.
It was no surprise that before too long he was highly respected among the group.
Not because of what he’d done in football, but because of the sort of person he was and because he was prepared to take time to invest in people.
Being a young group many of our players had him up on a pedestal, but they very quickly realised how much they could learn from him and what a great resource he was going to be for our footy club.
Luke is the type of individual that makes those around him not only better footballers, but better people.
We’re lucky that he will continue to work with us in a part-time capacity.
From his two years as a player at the Lions, he left a legacy of leadership and ability to understand the game.
Our players now know that they all have the capacity to lead.
His on-field communication set a great example to everyone that will be carried on by others in seasons to come.
Luke has come equally as far off-the-field as he has on it.
Most importantly, he’s a dedicated husband to Lauren, and father to four children, Cooper, Chase, Leo and Tanner.
He’s a charitable and community-minded individual who has given his time to growing the game.
The young lad from Colac has come a long way over the last 19 years.
Sam Mitchell (Hawthorn football club)
‘Hodgey’ came to the Hawks a good, country lad from a great family.
Coming in as the No.1 Draft pick in what would go on to be known as the 2001 ‘Super Draft’.
You knew early on that he was going to be a very good player, for a very long time.
We were lucky to debut together, with former Hawthorn ruckman Robbie Campbell (116 games), against Richmond in Round 5, 2002.
I’m sure for Hodgey it was surreal for him to debut, not only at the MCG, but against the side he supported growing up.
We weren’t as appreciative of it at the time but to debut in the same game as someone you would go on to play more than 250 games with was special.
Looking back now, it adds another special layer to the moments of our career that we shared together.
Our early years together at the club were tough in that we didn’t win many games.
However, one of the great things about being in an AFL football program is that you’re able to develop over time.
For us, we were heavily involved in emerging leader programs, which helped us build a strong relationship on and off-the-field.
Coming from different backgrounds, Hodgey the country and myself the city, meant we had different personalities but we soon jelled.
As a group, we worked hard with ‘Clarko’ (Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson) at the helm.
We went from winning four games in 2004 to five games in 2005, and eventually won the flag in 2008.
I was fortunate to have Hodgey by my side through all of those moments.
Eventually, it came the time to hand over the captaincy and I knew that he was going to be the right fit.
Clarko and I made the decision to give him time to mature and develop under my wing before he would take the reins ahead of the 2011 season.
Hodgey worked hard to mature and become consistent across all aspects of his life.
From the day he took over the role, he did a fantastic job.
By the end of our careers at Hawthorn, we had won four flags together and created a lifetime of memories.
We still talk fairly regularly and love to reminisce on what we achieved in our careers.
Often, we don’t talk about the premierships themselves, but rather the moments we all had leading into them, whether it be an odd moment from the game or a team talk we ‘messed up.’
When you’re in Hodgey’s inner sanctum you get a different feel for him than what the public perception is.
Despite him having such a long and successful career, he’s always happy to take the ‘mickey’ out of himself.
With our playing careers both behind us, maybe one day we’ll be reunited through our coaching careers.
He’s uncovering coding (watching games and chopping them into edits for players) and getting into the nitty gritty of being in the coaching ranks.
I can only hope he develops the coaching bug because even from those early days at Waverley, when we would watch vision together, he had a football brain and ability to see things no one else could.