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It would be something of an understatement to say that 24-year-old Northern Beaches local Reece Hodge has been an inspiration to aspiring sportsmen and sportswomen.
The 2019 Northern Beaches Australia Day ‘Sportsperson of the Year’ has overcome adversity to go on and amass over 50 Super Rugby caps for the Melbourne Rebels and 33 Test Matches for Australia to date.
Reece was able to successfully rehabilitate two significant ankle injuries and return to the game he loves, eventually earning himself a professional contract and living the dream of a professional rugby player.
Reece’s junior rugby was played with the Harbord Harlequins and Manly Roos, his progress through the Manly Junior Academy and age representative teams leading him to graduate to the Manly Marlins first grade team.
Strong performances for the Marlins in their 2015 Shute Shield campaign earned him a contract at the Melbourne Rebels and an opportunity too good to resist.
2016 was a pivotal year for Reece.
“I had my first season of Super Rugby with the Melbourne Rebels, finishing the season with a club record of nine tries and scoring 63 points - including 20 points on my debut,” he said.
Reece was named Super Rugby Rookie of the Year, Rebels Rookie of the Year and Rugby Union Players' Association (RUPA) Newcomer of the Year.
Reece’s strong form was rewarded when he was named to make his test debut against the All Blacks in August of the same year.
He harbours hopes of playing many more in the coming years.
Described as a “born and bred Northern Beaches boy”, Reece played a number of sports growing up, although shone as a talented youngster in rugby and cricket especially.
“Like many Northern Beaches youngsters, I played for the love of the game and enjoyed weekends spent down at Manly Oval in the sun with my mates,” said Reece.
Reece has also proved a wonderful role model to aspiring young rugby players on the Peninsula.
Reece has always offered his time to assist with junior player development and Colts (18s to under-20s) development, maintaining a strong association with the Manly Marlins.
But it was Reece’s immediate elevation into the national team that had the most profound effect on the Northern Beaches rugby community.
Since suffering a significant injury in 2013, Reece's hard work and dedication to rugby has been an inspiration to local junior and senior rugby players to reach their full potential.
It was in that capacity as a role model that Reece wan nominated for, and acknowledged with his Australia Day ‘Sportsperson of the Year’ award.
For the future, Reece says he looks forward to his continuing involvement with the community and aspiring rugby players as much as playing the game itself.