Doing extra work on his own has paid off for Rugby Championship squad bolter Reece Hodge, who is prepared to parlay his utility value into taking any opportunity he’s given.
The 21-year-old Melbourne Rebels back was one of four uncapped players to make the Wallabies’ 33-man squad for the four-nation tournament starting later this month.
Hodge was one of the best Australian Super Rugby rookies to emerge from a disappointing year for the local franchises.
He scored nine tries, equal sixth best in the competition and second only in Australia to NSW Waratahs and Wallabies superstar Israel Folau, who topped the overall chart with 11.
Hodge was named in a training squad for the three-match series against England in June but didn’t get to play.
“I was just trying to cement a spot in Super Rugby, I didn’t expect to get this, but now I’m here I’ve got to make the most of it,” Hodge said on Monday.
An Australian schoolboys and Under 20s representative, Hodge has the versatility valued by coaches.
“I’ve played about half at centre and half at fullback this year with the Rebels,” Hodge said.
“Either centre position or fullback and even the wing as well, I’m up to playing wherever I’m put.”
He attributed his rapid rise this year to the extra work he started doing prior to establishing himself as a fixture in the Rebels side.
“When you’re playing club rugby there’s a lot of individual extras and trying to keep yourselves in the best possible condition for each week and just staying on top of recovery and extra conditioning,” Hodge said.
“Doing that stuff on my own definitely helped me prepare for Super Rugby this year, with the higher workload and being able to keep myself on the park, my body as good as it ever could be week to week.
“Going to the gym, fitness and recovery. With club rugby there’s not the structure of the game at Super Rugby level where everything is organised for you, so you’ve got to take responsibility on your own and you go out and do stuff.
“I was at uni, just stuff like going down after training gets you in the right habits for when you do make it at professional level.”