His three-week AFL ban coincided with two losses that have unsettled the Hawks’ flag defence but Hawthorn captain Luke Hodge isn’t about to change the way he plays.
Hodge was given a suspension by the AFL tribunal for a swinging elbow into North Melbourne skipper Andrew Swallow’s jaw in round five.
The two-time Norm Smith Medallist says he felt frustration on the sidelines as the Hawks lost narrow games to GWS and Sydney over the past month.
With the skipper sidelined, the Hawks dropped to 4-4 in the win-loss, but Hodge said there was no shortage of support for his physical style from within the club despite the ban.
“I’ve had coaching staff, I’ve had players come and say ‘don’t change your game’,” he said.
“The support of the players has been outstanding.
“Physicality is why I’ve been able to play for so long and anyone who knows me knows I didn’t mean to do that.”
Hodge suggested his absence wasn’t why Hawthorn dropped matches to the two Sydney-based sides.
“In those games we had opportunities to win those games, if we had of taken a few chances,” he said.
“That’s football, you win close games and you lose close games.”
Hodge returned on Saturday to help Hawthorn overrun Gold Coast in Launceston.
Alastair Clarkson’s side have the chance to finally win two games in a row in 2015 against St Kilda on Sunday.
Hodge said the Saints had won his admiration with gallant showings this season.
“One thing you look for in a young side is their enthusiasm and how eager they are and that’s one thing St Kilda have shown this year,” he said.
“They’ve lost a few games this year and they’ve lost a number of senior players over the last couple of years but their attitude is something that everyone’s been really impressed with.
“(David) Armitage and Jack Steven have both been outstanding leaders on the field and a lot of their young guys have followed suit.”
Hodge said the growing competitiveness of clubs like St Kilda had helped the Hawks find a soft landing during their rocky start.
“How even the competition is this year, the AFL is probably rapt and we’re pretty thankful at the moment,” he said.
“Normally when you’re sitting 5-4 and you wouldn’t be sixth.”