Unleashed Hodge a weapon for Hawks - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Unleashed Hodge a weapon for Hawks

By Sam Lienert 14/02/2010 02:35:08 PM Comments (0)

Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson says a reinforced defence will free star utility Luke Hodge to make full use of his versatility this AFL season.

In a sign of things to come, Hodge was devastating in the midfield and attack as the Hawks destroyed Richmond 3.16.12 (135) to 0.9.8 (62) in their opening round NAB Cup match in Launceston on Saturday night.

His penetrating left-foot kicking was a highlight, pin-pointing teammates and slotting two goals, including a gem from almost 50m tight on the boundary.

While the 25-year-old won the Norm Smith Medal in the Hawks' 2008 premiership in a sweeping defensive role, Clarkson said greater depth now allowed him to roam.

"It's pretty much horses for courses with Hodgey," Clarkson said.

"With the emergence of (Ryan) Schoenmakers as a guy that can play key back and the recruitment of (Josh) Gibson, hopefully that will allow Hodgey to be freed up to play a little bit more midfield and forward."

The fitness of key defender Stephen Gilham, hampered by a knee injury last season, has also helped free Hodge to go wherever he can do most damage.

"He's a player that's proven himself in the middle of the ground and been able to kick goals for us and that's a really important (attribute) to have, and he's just generally tough at the footy," Clarkson said.

"But he's also very, very handy for us in the back end of the ground, as we saw especially in the back end of 2008. We'll require him down there from time to time."

Hodge's move to the middle bolsters a strong midfield group.

Sam Mitchell, Brad Sewell and Jordan Lewis were also damaging against the Tigers, and ex-Port Adelaide recruit Shaun Burgoyne, Chance Bateman and Cyril Rioli will add speed and skill when they return.

The only concerns for the Hawks to come out of the Launceston clash were a corked buttock to Lance Franklin, while youngster Beau Dowler was on crutches on Sunday after rolling his ankle in the pre-game warm-up and rookie Luke Breust sustained a minor knee injury.

New Richmond coach Damien Hardwick had bigger worries, chiefly how to get a young side that looked completely out of their depth into competitive shape by their regular season opener against Carlton on March 25.

And Tigers' draftee Ben Nason needs scans after his knee buckled underneath him, while Adam Thomson was concussed in a marking contest.

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