JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

New Waratah grateful shield has helped him Shute for the top

Players' player ... Michael Hodge.

Players' player ... Michael Hodge. Photo: Supplied

IT'S been a big week for Waratahs recruit Michael Hodge.

On Tuesday he was unveiled as one of three fresh young faces in the province's 2013 line-up and tomorrow he takes the field for Sydney University in the Shute Shield grand final against Southern Districts.

The 23-year-old versatile back is yet another example, alongside Sydney Uni and now-Waratahs teammates Paddy Ryan, Tom Kingston, Jeremy Tilse and Tom Carter, of the value of a strong club competition.

It was the Shute Shield that kept Hodge in rugby between stints in the ARU's national training squad as a teenager, a Sevens call-up two years ago and an introduction to the Waratahs during the 2012 pre-season.

''It's really difficult for a kid to go from out of school to playing professional rugby, so I think Shute Shield is a really good step in that development,'' he said. ''There are obviously exceptions - look at Kurtley [Beale], James O'Connor, they're great players who were probably ready at that age - but I think a lot of kids probably have to play at that [club] level before they go to professional rugby.''

Hodge's Waratahs audition came after an exceptional 2011 season with Sydney Uni, marred only by the club's grand final loss to Eastwood.

He was voted the club's players' player of the year and was later invited to spend the pre-season at Moore Park, playing in the Waratahs' trial matches against Samoa and Tonga in February this year.

Hodge said the few months he spent in a professional set-up helped him to rediscover his hunger.

''I worked a lot with [assistant coach Scott Bowen] and they just said keep going at it, go back to club footy, keep playing,'' he said.

''I learnt so much and I loved it, I think that's when I realised that this was something I wanted to pursue and have a crack at.''

Another year with Uni also allowed Hodge to all but finish his education degree and have another crack at a grand final.

''To [lose to Eastwood] was pretty tough but it's made us so much more hungry this year, it drives you to try harder,'' he said.

''We maybe mightn't have done things the way we should have towards the end of last year so we're making sure we prepare properly so everything's ready to go.''

Intent on spoiling the team's second-chance fairytale is a Southern Districts side that is also stacked with Waratahs.

John Ulugia, Lopeti Timani, Grayson Hart and Atieli Pakalani will run on for the Rebels' first grand final after a season that cemented their reputation as a squad on the rise.

''From one to 15 they're really strong … any loose balls and they'll make you pay, and they're a big pack with a really strong set piece,'' Hodge said.

The clubs are a win each after playing each other twice this season. It is shaping as a battle between the established elders and the upstarts with a point to prove.

''[Southern Districts] are going to have a lot of passion and really want it, but we're definitely prepared … both games were really exciting and expansive so we're in for a good game,'' Hodge said.

HuffPost Australia

Rugby World Cup 2015

Round 1
Sat, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
ENG 35vs FJI 11 Report Stats
TGA 10vs GEO 17 Report Stats
IRE 50vs CAN 7 Report Stats
Sun, 20 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 32vs JPN 34 Report Stats
FRA 32vs ITA 10 Report Stats
SAM 25vs USA 16 Report Stats
WAL 54vs URU 9 Report Stats
Mon, 21 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 26vs ARG 16 Report Stats
Wed, 23 SepTimes shown AEST
SCO 45vs JPN 10 Report Stats
Thu, 24 SepTimes shown AEST
AUS 28vs FJI 13 Report Stats
FRA 38vs ROM 11 Report Stats
Fri, 25 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 58vs NAM 14 Report Stats
Sat, 26 SepTimes shown AEST
ARG 54vs GEO 9 Report Stats
ITA 23vs CAN 18 Report Stats
Sun, 27 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 46vs SAM 6 Report Stats
ENG 25vs WAL 28 Report Stats
AUS 65vs URU 3 Report Stats
SCO 39vs USA 16 Report Stats
Mon, 28 SepTimes shown AEST
IRE 44vs ROM 10 Report Stats
Wed, 30 SepTimes shown AEST
TGA 35vs NAM 21 Report Stats
Fri, 02 OctTimes shown AEST
WAL 23vs FJI 13 Report Stats
FRA 41vs CAN 18 Report Stats
Sat, 03 OctTimes shown AEST
NZL 43vs GEO 10 Report Stats
SAM 5vs JPN 26 Report Stats
Sun, 04 OctTimes shown AEST
SAF 34vs SCO 16 Report Stats
ENG 13vs AUS 33 Report Stats
Mon, 05 OctTimes shown AEDT
ARG 45vs TGA 16 Report Stats
IRE 16vs ITA 9 Report Stats
Wed, 07 OctTimes shown AEDT
CAN 15vs ROM 17 Report Stats
FJI 47vs URU 15 Report Stats
Thu, 08 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 64vs USA 0 Report Stats
NAM 16vs GEO 17 Stats
Sat, 10 OctTimes shown AEDT
NZL 47vs TGA 9 Report Stats
Sun, 11 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAM 33vs SCO 36 Report Stats
AUS 15vs WAL 6 Report Stats
ENG 60vs URU 3 Stats
ARG 64vs NAM 19 Report Stats
Mon, 12 OctTimes shown AEDT
ITA 32vs ROM 22 Report Stats
FRA 9vs IRE 24 Report Stats
USA 18vs JPN 28 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Sun, 18 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 23vs WAL 19 Stats
NZL 62vs FRA 13 Report Stats
IRE 20vs ARG 43 Report Stats
Mon, 19 OctTimes shown AEDT
AUS 35vs SCO 34 Stats
Sun, 25 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 18vs NZL 20 Stats
Mon, 26 OctTimes shown AEDT
ARG 15vs AUS 29 Stats
Sat, 31 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 24vs ARG 13 Stats
Sun, 01 NovTimes shown AEDT
NZL 34vs AUS 17 Stats
View All Fixtures
Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Australia 4 4 0 0 106 17
Wales 4 3 1 0 49 13
England 4 2 2 0 58 11
Fiji 4 1 3 0 -17 5
Uruguay 4 0 4 0 -196 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
South Africa 4 3 1 0 120 16
Scotland 4 3 1 0 43 14
Japan 4 3 1 0 -2 12
Samoa 4 1 3 0 -55 6
USA 4 0 4 0 -106 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
New Zealand 4 4 0 0 125 19
Argentina 4 3 1 0 109 15
Georgia 4 2 2 0 -70 8
Tonga 4 1 3 0 -60 6
Namibia 4 0 4 0 -104 1
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Ireland 4 4 0 0 99 18
France 4 3 1 0 57 14
Italy 4 2 2 0 -14 10
Romania 4 1 3 0 -69 4
Canada 4 0 4 0 -73 2
View all

Follow Us on Facebook

Featured advertisers