Matchstick Hodgson happy to punch above his weight

Click to follow
The Independent Online

It was appropriate that Brett Hodgson should have carried out many of his media commitments this week on the outskirts of Salford.

To listen to some, Huddersfield's lightweight full-back and captain would not be out of place in one of those LS Lowry paintings celebrated in "Matchstick Men and Matchstick Cats and Dogs."

But if Hodgson is made of matchsticks, they are remarkably tough ones and have provided plenty of illumination for the Giants this season. If he is notable for being the lightest player in Super League – "76 kilos wringing wet," he says; nobody knows what he weighs dry – then he has made an impression at the Galpharm out of all proportion to his bulk.

As one of the best players in his position in the NRL and a Grand Final winner with West-Tigers, there was no real doubt about his credentials. When Nathan Brown was named as the club's new coach a year ago, he was publically delighted that Hodgson was already tied up.

All the same, it was a surprise when one of his first actions was to make his fellow newcomer team captaint. "When Nathan mentioned it to me, I said it was only something I wanted to do if everyone was happy," Hodgson says. "I've always been a talker on the field."

Brown himself describes it as "a very simple decision." "After two or three days training, if you'd asked the players who should have been captain, to a man they would have said Brett Hodgson."

Signing Hodgson felt like a coup for the Giants and they had their extensive links with his Australian club to thank for it. "One of my best mates is John Skandalis, who played here, and he told me it was a great club with great people," he says.

He goes along with the theory that a final without a clear favourite could be one of the modern classics. "These are two teams that have worked very hard to get here and have played some pretty good football on the way. Tony Smith has done a great job with Warrington and it shows in the way they have beaten quality sides." Hodgson shares in the Giants' pride in having the best defence in the game this season, something that he contributes to strongly, not just as defensive organiser, but as the maker of vital tackles and taker of vital kicks himself.

"When you know you're never going to be the biggest, you have to work extra hard to improve other things about your game," he says.

Raleigh given chop by Giants

The Huddersfield coach, Nathan Brown, has sprung a surprise by leaving Andy Raleigh out of his squad for Wembley. The second-rower made his comeback from Achilles trouble as a substitute at St Helens on Friday, but is thought to lack the necessary match fitness. Either Simon Finnigan or Martin Aspinwall will fill the extra forward role, with Michael Lawrence as the spare back.

Warrington have included Micky Higham, who has not played since a rupturing bicep in May, in place of Jon Clarke, who has not recovered from an ankle injury.