During mid-2017, there was a rumour going around that Luke Hodge could be on the move to the Brisbane Lions, a rumour that gained no traction once he announced his retirement from the game. However come the end of the season, those rumours kicked up a gear and turned into reality, as Hodge signed a two-year playing/coaching contract with the Lions from 2018 onwards and coming out of retirement.
While nobody outside of Brisbane saw it coming, Hodge has been the recruit the Brisbane Lions needed, proving his value throughout the 2018 season. His recruitment was a masterstroke from the Lions. Not only did they get a much-needed experienced head in their defensive setup, but they’ve also got someone who is just as good as an on-field playing coach, something that is invaluable to a young list.
Old head help young cubs
As the Lions have undertaken a list overhaul in recent years, with experienced players mostly retired, the list has become one of the youngest in the last few seasons. Hodge, on the other hand, came in with the experience of being a Hawthorn premiership captain, and what he has shown this season in passing on his knowledge and nous to his younger teammates has been invaluable.
This is why this model in bringing on an experienced player, potentially past their prime yet can still string consistent weeks of football together, into a younger side could be something clubs’ will look to adopt having seen first-hand Hodge’s impact on Brisbane this season. A lot of people simply look at the statistics to measure a player’s worth to a side, but the leadership and experience factor is often overlooked and although it is immeasurable, it is incomparable and an absolute asset, which has been the case in Hodge’s recruitment.
Bucking the trend
In recent seasons, clubs have preferred to delist older heads who still have the ability to play a few more seasons at the top level, like Brent Harvey for example, and instead, have gone with blooding youngsters as a better bet.Yet as Brisbane and Hodge have proven this season, this no longer will be the norm as coupling young talent with the right experience around them is undoubtedly a recipe for success.
A case example of how it all can go wrong is with St Kilda, Carlton, and Gold Coast. All three sides finished in the bottom three this season, and although they all found themselves there from different directions, what they wouldn’t give to have their own Luke Hodge teaching their young lists on the run.
Melbourne ahead of the curve
A case example of how it can work is, although not yet proven on the ladder, Brisbane, as well as Melbourne. The Demons recruited Jordan Lewis at the end of the 2016 season, and although his influence hasn’t been the key reason to them being in the finals race this season and almost in 2017, he has played a major role. The experience and skill he has brought to a young Melbourne side has proven the value of his recruitment. Not only is he playing at a high standard, but he has positively influenced his teammates to achieve success as has been seen in their improvement in the past two seasons.
This is why such a model of recruiting a player of the ilk of Luke Hodge – an experienced player who knows how to win a premiership – will be the way clubs look to in the future in terms of improving their young sides. No longer can you just build from the ground up, as it is now paramount that, if done correctly, placing experienced heads in young side’s will pay off in the long run.
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