"One Percenters" helping Hodge in bid for opening round return

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Cryotherapy, hyperbaric chambers, extra gym sessions.

You name it, Wallabies utility Reece Hodge is doing it in a bid to return for round one of Super Rugby 2019.

Hodge had surgery just over six weeks ago after breaking his tibia in a freak training accident just two days before the Wallabies left on their end of year tour.

The 24-year-old is out of his moon boot and walking with relative ease and running is the next thing he wants to check off his list.

He is cautiously optimistic about his chances of playing in that match but said he wouldn’t take any undue risk if he suffered any kind of setback in the coming months, with the Rugby World Cup on the horizon.

“The aim is to be right for round one but in saying that it's a pretty important year in the broader scheme of things, so not going to rush it if it's not right,” he said.

“At this stage, everything's going quite well and been working hard to try and make those incremental gains but if it's not right, I'll just take it slow.

“I’ve been throwing all the one percenters at it with hyperbaric chambers, cryotherapy and all that kind of stuff.

“If I can make up a few days or a week here or there on the projected recovery time, then I'm happy.”

While his last major injury, season-ending ankle break came playing for the Manly marlins in a colts grand final, this incident was far more innocuous.

Teammate Will Genia colliding with Hodge in a drill at the end of a training session and his leg was simply caught at an awkward angle.

While the initial diagnosis was “shattering” for Hodge, the gap has been his longest in close to three years since a meteoric rise through the ranks in 2016.

“It was disappointing at the start but in saying that it has been great to have a mental break, be home around my family and friends back in Manly, back on the beaches for the last 6-7 weeks,” he said.

“I really enjoyed my time just catching up with old mates I don't really get a chance to do these days and just have a bit of a chill and get away from footy.”

Hodge watched the Wallabies Spring Tour from a distance and said while he watched the matches - a 9-6 loss to Wales, 26-7 over Italy and a 37-18 loss to England - he made an effort to stay out of a lot of the increasing commentary around the team.

Pressure on players and, moreso, coaches has only ramped up in recent weeks but Hodge said he did his best to ignore the opinions.

“I think everyone wants to have their word about what's going on and everyone likes to have a comment so it's tough to not get caught up too much in it,” he said.

“Most of my mates and family are quite good and don't really stick the boot in at all or offer up too much advice, so I've just really taken it as a chance to get away from footy.

“I still support the team, still watch the games but just being able to train without focusing on actual rugby at this stage has been quite good for me.”

Hodge will return to Melbourne next week to link up with the Rebels and work his way back to full training ahead of the 2019 season.