Australian rugby and the Rebels have secured their breakout star of 2016, with Reece Hodge re-signing with the franchise until the end of 2020.
His signing caps off a remarkable run for the 22-year-old, who went from Manly Marlins Shute Shield finalist to Wallabies debutant in a season, after an extraordinary Super Rugby run.
The utility back filled roles across the park for the Rebels during Super Rugby, scoring 20 points on debut for Melbourne, on his way to the Super Rugby Rookie of the Year award.
An injury to Mike Harris in the Rebels’ final game before the June series opened up the door for the rookie to join the wider Test squad.
He made his Wallabies debut in the second Bledisloe match in Wellington, with a 55-m penalty goal the highlight of his cameo.
Hodge was on track for a Spring Tour try grand slam, scoring in the opening two matches of the Wallabies’ five-Test campaign, and said his maiden Test season felt like the start of the 2019 World Cup story.
“Being a part of the 2016 Wallabies squad with so many new faces felt like the start of our journey towards 2019 and it’s something that I really want to be a part of going forward,"- Reece Hodge
“I know it will take a lot of hard work and consistent form to get there but just to have the opportunity to be playing rugby in Australia and striving towards that goal of playing for the Wallabies at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan is awesome.”
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika said Hodge's should be a model for other emerging players to follow.
"Reece took his opportunity in 2016, showing he’s got what it takes firstly in Super Rugby then at the Test level. There’s plenty of great young talent in Australia and Reece is a great example of what can happen when you take your chance," he said.
"It’s great to see young lads committing to long-term deals and I know Reece is very excited about the years ahead for both Melbourne and the Wallabies."