Tasmania has such a special place in the heart of Luke Hodge that he is already thinking about his next trip here even before his final on-field act in Launceston is played out.
The all-time games record holder in Launceston will make his 46th and final appearance at UTas Stadium on Sunday when Hawthorn host North Melbourne, with the 33-year-old to end his illustrious career at the conclusion of the home and away season.
“You always love playing games of footy where you have that good home crowd, and there’s nothing more home than when you go down to Tassie,’’ Hodge told Fairfax Media on Wednesday.
“When I got drafted [in the 2001 national draft] we were just establishing that relationship with Tasmania, and I remember [former president Jeff Kennett] saying that we have to give a lot to Tasmania and if we embrace the Tassie people, they will support Hawthorn.
“We’ve always had that support down there and we have repaid them with the style of footy we have played.”
The former skipper has had a career, which will end on 305 games save for an injury or match review panel disaster, full of highlights, with four premierships [three as captain], two Norm Smith Medals and two best and fairests at the top of that list.
There are plenty of moments that stick in the mind from his 34 wins, 10 losses and one draw in Launceston, the city where he played his 200th match in 2012.
“One of the biggest memories is actually when I wasn’t playing, when I was sitting in the stands and Buddy kicked 13,’’ he said.
“There are a lot of good memories, like the smother off [Ryan] Griffen and then kicking the torp after Roughy told me off for not passing it, and I remember Sam Mitchell left-foot banana goal down where the new change rooms are.
In light of Hodgey's final Tassie game, we're reliving one of our favourite 'Hodgey in Hobart' memories.— Hawthorn FC (@HawthornFC) August 10, 2017
The man sure can hit a target. 😂 pic.twitter.com/wwOhFxa4Ns
“But in saying that, when you play so many games, there are so many memories and to get a win in my milestone game there was special.”
The other game that is often spoken about is Shane Crawford’s 300th in 2008.
“I remember I was on the bench when Lado [Rick Ladson] squared it up to him [Crawf] and all the boys rushed to him, and while I was sad to be on the bench, it is still one that sticks in my mind.”
He has great memories of his last appearance at the MCG, when the Hawks halted the Swans’ run in round 19, and is hoping for a similar feeling against the Kangaroos.
“It doesn’t matter where either team is, we have always had reasonably good battles over the past five to seven years, so I’m expecting that to be the same on Sunday.”
So after Sunday, when should we expect to see Hodge back down this way?
“I haven’t made a full decision of what I will be doing next year, but I will definitely coming down as a supporter next year to watch the boys,’’ Hodge said.
“I might even bring the golf clubs and head down to Barnbougle for a bit of a slap with a few mates, as that has been a bucket list thing for me.”
His final on-field fling in Launceston starts at 3.20pm on Sunday.
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