Western Force stalwart Matt Hodgson is going around for one more year, after signing a deal with the franchise to play on in 2017, but he won’t be its captain any longer.
Hodgson, one of two foundation players remaining at the club, has stepped down from the official leadership role, but will be using his final playing contract to transition into a skills coaching role with the team in 2018.
The uncompromising flanker said he felt he could still make an important contribution to the club, where he has played 131 Super Rugby matches
“It’s great to put pen to paper and I’m thrilled to be here for another season,” he said.
“I always wanted to keep playing at the Force and as long I’m adding value I want to be a part of this team.”
Hodgson remains one of the constants in what is set to be a new era for the Force, under new head coach Dave Wessels and recently added assistants, including Shaun Berne.
That new age is one Hodgson said he was looking forward to being a part of.
“We’re going in a new direction, which is fantastic. Having a world-class coaching group with different skill sets and different areas of expertise is great.
“I’ve played with Shaun Berne, and know that he has an excellent mind for the game and the experience of Alan Gaffney goes without saying.”
The coaching element of his next contract will begin immediately, with Hodgson keen to begin mentoring the next generation of teammates.
“I guess you could say this contract is in two parts, one being the playing aspect and the second moving into a coaching position and being part of the club in that way for a long time into the future.
“It’s something as a club we are looking at; trying to get players more involved in different aspects of rugby as a business and coaching genuinely excites me.
“I want to become a mentor to the younger players coming through, to be a sounding board for transitioning players and hopefully push them into long successful careers here in Western Australia.”
Hodgson had a strong relationship with former coach Michael Foley and as the club’s captain mentoring has always been a part of his role, but the veteran said he was glad to make it official and have more of a say in the direction of the club.
“I’ve already worked closely with the coaching team over the last four years and to do this in a more official way with ‘Blood’ (Dave Wessels) and the other coaches is a great opportunity. I’m confident we can develop a style of play that will get the best from our players and be truly entertaining for the Sea of Blue to watch.”
Wessels paid tribute to Hodgson’s influence in Perth, where he has become somewhat of a cult figure intrinsically linked with the West Australian franchise.
“’Hodgo’s the life and soul of this place,” he said. “He’s been here from day one, and I think when many people think of the Western Force they associate that with Matt Hodgson.
“For us, as an organisation it’s just a fantastic thing to have him recommit, I don’t think there was any doubt in Hodgo’s mind that he wanted to stay.
“In fact what has taken a little bit longer to finalise is that we want him to stay longer - post his playing days. The idea is we want to build a legacy at this club with the people that are important to us, and Matt is exactly the type of person that we want to hold onto long-term.”
“I heard a great story about Matt; when the Force were founded and had only one spot left in the squad, there were two players interviewed for the position. One of them was ‘Hodgo.'
“After the meeting, Hodgo sent a text to then coach John Mitchell and said ‘Regardless of who you pick I appreciate you taking the time to chat with me. But - if you do pick me - I will never let you down…’ And he’s been true to his word – he’s never let us down.”