The Melbourne Rebels will this week toast the remarkable career of one of its favourite sons Reece Hodge who will become the most-capped player in the Club’s history.
The world-class utility back will play his 99th game against the Western Force at AAMI Park on Friday Night, surpassing current cap record holder Tom English.
English, a club legend, left a mark on an impressionable Hodge when he first arrived at the Club.
"Tom (English) was such a great player and a great bloke and someone I looked up to when I first came to the club, so it's definitely an honour," Hodge said on Thursday.
Hodge’s Super Rugby journey began as a 20-year-old, making his Rebels debut in Round 1 of the 2015 Super Rugby season against the Western Force, before going on to make 12 appearances, scoring nine tries and claiming the Super Rugby Rookie of the Year award.
Rugby pundits were in awe of the first gamer on a brutally hot night in Perth, as Hodge put the competition on notice with a dazzling performance, scoring two tries, two conversions, and two penalties, for a total of 20 points.
Hodge would continue his rapid development, quickly becoming one of the most prolific point scorers in the competition. Over the next eight years, he would go on to lead the Club in points (554), tries (37), penalties (69), and conversions (81).
While Hodge's skills on the field are impressive, his leadership qualities are equally noteworthy. As a senior member of the playing squad, he leads by example both on and off the field, inspiring his teammates with his dedication and work ethic.
A familiar sight for Rebels fans over his eight seasons is Hodge pinning opponents deep in their territory, and his long-range kicking ability driving home valuable points in crucial moments.
Hodge had a commitment to growing the game in Victoria during his time in Melbourne and credited the passionate Rebels fan base as a reason for staying when his last contract was up.
“I really wanted to help grow Rugby in Victoria, seeing how many people are passionate about the game down here, how many fans come out (to support us) rain, hail or shine every week,” Hodge said.
“It’s an awesome place to play every week at AAMI Park and great fans to play in front of.”
Melbourne Rebels CEO, Baden Stephenson, said the Club has been privileged to have one of Australia’s best players for the better part of the last decade.
“Reece arrived at the Rebels and had an immediate impact, winning the competition’s Rookie of the Year award and becoming part of Michael Cheika’s Wallabies squad,” Stephenson said.
“He is a player that goes above and beyond for his club and his teammates. He is a consummate professional and is someone who embodies everything that the Melbourne Rebels stand for.
“On top of his performances on the field, he has made a lasting impression in our Victorian Rugby community, and that is something that will be missed.”
The popular 28-year-old has also built an impressive Wallabies resume, having made 62 appearances for the national side, debuting in 2016 off the bench against New Zealand in the 2nd Test at Wellington.
One of his Wallabies career highlights came in 2017 when he made a monster penalty goal from 55 metres out in the final minutes of the 3rd Test against New Zealand at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane to seal a Wallaby victory over the World Champions.
When Hodge bids farewell to Melbourne at the end of this season, he will leave behind a significant legacy. His versatility, reliability, and leadership have set a standard for future players to aspire to.
He will undoubtedly be remembered as an all-time great of Victorian Rugby.