A childhood filled with yellow-and-black angst has led to Luke Hodge hopping on Richmond’s AFL bandwagon this week.
Hodge will always be a Hawthorn person — even if he takes up an offer to come out of retirement and play for Brisbane next season.
But the four-time premiership star has a soft spot for the team he supported as a boy in Colac.
Hodge will watch Saturday’s grand final from the MCG stands with his uncle, who remains a “mad Richmond supporter”.
Hodge, prior to being recruited by the Hawks with pick No.1 in the 2001 draft, was exactly the same.
“My first game was against Richmond. I said to my pa ‘who are you barracking for?’ and he didn’t answer,” Hodge said.
“So deep down I want the Tigers to win.
“I’ve seen what they’ve been through since 1980, the heartbreak, the prelim finals.
“I still remember how devastated I was after that ’95 prelim (when Geelong crushed the Tigers by 89 points).”
Hodge’s hopes of playing for the club he supported as a child were non-existent.
The Tigers’ first selection in 2001 draft was pick No.33 and it was clear to everybody that Hodge would be long gone before then.
But that didn’t stop former Tigers coach Danny Frawley interviewing Hodge, who went on to play 305 games and help Hawthorn become a powerhouse.
“He (Frawley) said ‘we’d love to but I don’t think you’re going to be there’ .. it was more of a ‘thanks for being a Richmond supporter’,” Hodge recalled.
Two-time Norm Smith medallist Hodge tipped Tigers skipper Trent Cotchin to be judged best on ground this weekend.
“He’s been as good a captain as anyone … it’s all come from Cotchin putting the team above himself,” Hodge said at Greater Western Sydney’s grand-final lunch.
“He prided himself on touches in the past … now he’ll run defensively to make sure the opposition doesn’t get a goal, rather than run to get a touch.”