Hodge comes of age in Hawks title win - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Hodge comes of age in Hawks title win

By Guy Hand 27/09/2008 11:13:32 PM Comments (0)

Hawthorn's Luke Hodge used to suffer by comparison with Chris Judd.

Now, only a Brownlow Medal separates them in terms of cold, hard return on investment - Hodge matching Judd by becoming a premiership player and a Norm Smith Medallist in the Hawks' 26-point win over Geelong at the MCG.

Rewind a few years and there were questions as to whether Hawthorn had got their No.1 pick in the talent-rich 2001 draft right.

Judd won the Brownlow Medal aged 21 in 2004.

The next year he won the Norm Smith Medal for best on ground in a losing West Coast grand final side.

Then he skippered the Eagles to the 2006 premiership.

All this while the Hawks were struggling, and Hodge had grown into a good player, not a great one like Judd.

But while Judd was headed towards AFL domination, Hodge was buying into a revolution.

New Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson was plotting the strategy that would eventually net the club a premiership - and Hodge was a vital part of his plans.

"Four years ago when Clarko came in, it was something we sat down, and set a plan for," Hodge said of the win.

"The maturity of the whole group over the last 18 months has been sensational. It's actually skipped forward a lot faster than I thought it would."

Such is the nature of AFL that the Hodge-Judd question will keep getting asked.

But in terms of just how important they are to their football clubs, Hodge proved there is precious little difference.

First the 24-year-old defender kept his team in a game they were in danger of slipping out of in the second quarter, throwing himself at everything in defence to break down Geelong's frequent forays forward.

Then in the third quarter, Hodge unglued the Cats' fragile grip on the contest by booting a huge 50-metre goal to give his side the lead.

That started a chain of five successive goals which broke the match open the Hawks' way.

Like Judd, Hodge has also become a formidable leader - Clarkson paying tribute to that aspect of Hodge's game and how well he works with Hawks skipper Sam Mitchell as the pair led a youthful side to a flag few outside the club thought possible at the start of the day.

"These two guys (Hodge and Sam Mitchell) are genuine leaders of our footy club," Clarkson said.

"The talent they've got as footballers and the roles they play - they're leaders of men and give such guidance to the rest of the group."

For Hodge, the premiership and Norm Smith Medal capped off an extraordinary year, with fiancee Lauren Kirkman giving birth to their first son Cooper in July.

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