Reece Hodge is chomping at the bit to make his Wallabies debut after receiving the ultimate vindication for his decision to pursue a professional rugby career over AFL, rugby league and cricket.
Hodge has continued his meteoric rise with selection on the Wallabies bench for Saturday night’s second Bledisloe Cup Test against the All Blacks in Wellington.
But the gifted sporting allrounder could well have been running out for the Sydney Swans or Sydney Roosters this weekend or touring with Sri Lanka with the Australian cricket team.
“I played rugby league, AFL, touch football and cricket as well as rugby throughout my junior years and really enjoyed all of them,” Hodge told AAP ahead of his baptism by fire against the world champion All Blacks.
“Around 17 I was playing at state level cricket and rugby and splitting my time between them and it was only really after school when I was picked in the ARU National Academy that I gave up playing grade cricket to focus on rugby with the goal of eventually playing professionally.”
According to his uncle, former Sydney Subbies rep coach Warren Hodge, Reece could have been anything as a cricketer.
“The problem with a talented nephew was we had to stop Christmas Day cricket when he was about 12 because he was carting his uncles for miles and we got sick of trudging off into the bush to find the ball,” he said.
Hodge, who only made his Super Rugby debut for the Melbourne Rebels in 2016, said “it was really a matter of whichever sport gave me the best opportunity”.
“I had to choose National under-16s rugby championships over playing Harold Matthews (junior representative rugby league) for example and was definitely trying to crack cricket as well until age 18,” he said.
“I really enjoyed AFL. I think it suited my skill set quite well growing up and was playing it every Saturday until the comp changed to Sundays and clashed with rugby.”
The 21-year-old is still pinching himself by how fast it’s all happened for him this season.
“Yeah I’m definitely still surprised by the year I’ve had,” Hodge said.
“I worked hard to get to Super Rugby level and came into 2016 just trying to take any opportunity presented to me by the Rebels.
“I’m grateful that the opportunity came sooner rather than later and I’ve had the opportunity to play a lot of footy this year.”