In 139 Super Rugby games and 12 years at the Force, Matt Hodgson has made his physical toughness known, but it’s his mental presence that has been the reason for admiration from teammates and opponents alike.
Hodgson’s first impressions haven’t always been perfect, with new recruit hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau recalling their many run-ins before he joined Perth, but his enemy-turned-teammate
“It's funny because every time we've played each other we've always tried to fight each other,” he laughed.
“He keeps reminding me of that.
“The guy's been through such adversity, not just on the field but off as well and for him to come over here and prove them wrong is the definition of Matt Hodgson,” he said.
“He'll defy the odds to get to where he wants to go.”
Force Flanker Ross Haylett-Petty said he also had a pretty rough first impression with Hodgson.
“Day one I thought he hated me because we got caught in the bottom of a ruck and I can't remember what he said but it wasn't too nice,” he said.
“That was day one.”
Haylett-Petty said he had leaned on Hodgson as we works towards maintaining a regular spot in no. 6, but he said he was far from alone in that respect.
“We've had a rocky relationship but I think we're pretty similar kinds of people and I think obviously we've all run through rough times and he's been helping different people in different ways,” he said.
“There's a whole lot of off the field stuff where he's been there for everyone, myself included.”
This year Hodgson has become in many ways the face of the Force’s defiance in the face of Super Rugby uncertainty, despite his own future having little at stake on the decision.
That, though, hasn’t dimmed his passion to keep WA rugby alive, for his kids and the rest of the next generation.
“He always does his part but just through this time knowing he's going to retire i think he wants to leave the club in the best space possible,” Haylett-Petty said.
“Obviously being our RUPA rep and everything he's making sure all the boys are set up because he's getting out of the game at the right time.
“We're going to have to go on without him.”
Hodgson's opposite number on Saturday night, Waratahs captain Michael Hooper, didn't hide his respect for his long-time western counterpart, when asked this week.
"His ticker is absolutely unbelievable," he said.
"What he’s done for the Force has been huge, as far as a personality behind the scenes as well as on the field."
Force coach Dave Wessels said on Friday that Hodgson’s final Super Rugby match would be a greater motivation than any lingering uncertainty would bring.
“If you just think about it 140 games is an unbelievable effort and I think everybody thinks of Hodgo as a very tough physically but to play 140 games you’ve got to be pretty tough mentally,” he said.
“He’s been through a fair amount throughout the last 12 seasons at the club.
“I think it’s given us real energy this week because all we want to do as a team is send him off in the right way.”
The Force take on the Waratahs on Saturday night, kicking off at 5:45pm AWST, 7:45pm AEST LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO.