Aubrey John Hodgson
- 287Wallaby Number
Aub Hodgson was one of the truly great characters of Australian rugby. A dynamic personality both on and off the field, Hodgson was one of the greatest and easily the most colourful forward in the post World War I era. Hodgson was a fierce and tireless rucker, and almost peerless as an open forward. He was powerful, had a tremendous burst of speed, safe hands, and a fine sense of anticipation that enabled him to create and bag many tries. Hodgson was also a genuine student of rugby. He collected information ad nauseam and committed it all to paper. Hodgson and the legendary reported Eddie Kann were the two preeminent rugby historians of the 1940s.
The son of a grazier, Hodgson was born west of Wagga Wagga in Lockhart, New South Wales and educated at Sydney’s Newington College although he never gave any sense of private school privilege in his behaviors. At the college Hodgson played three seasons in the 1st XV (1927-29), won colours for rowing (1928-29) and represented the combined G.P.S. XV twice (1928-29). Hodgson went straight from Newington to first grade at Manly and with only a few games under his belt caused a real sensation when named for a state debut at prop - where he had showed for Manly rather than at flanker where he had starred as a schoolboy - against Warwick, QLD.
He returned home in 1931 however that only spurred his rugby ambitions to even greater heights. While not selected for the 1932 series against New Zealand he forced his way back into favour to win a spot on the following year’s tour of South Africa where he played three Tests, including his debut at Durban. Following his efforts on the tour South African writers hailed Hodgson as one of the world’s finest forwards. He played a starring role when Australia won their first Bledisloe Cup series in 1934 and a year later rejected an approach to play rugby league for North Sydney. "I have never entertained an idea of playing League," Hodgson said. "I am staying with the Union." In 1937 the Springboks returned to Australian shores for the first time since 1921.
Hodgson gave an amazing display in the second Test where he charged straight for the Springbok half Pierre de Villiers whenever he got the ball. After half an hour of constant punishment de Villiers was glassy-eyed. Hodgson soon made a powerful run down the sideline and prop Kalfie Martin hurled himself at the No.8 to effect the tackle. Hodgson went down, but on the way, hit Martin hard in the face with an elbow. As the two men scrambled to their feet, Martin launched an uppercut and it was on for young and old. Hodgson and Martin stood toe to toe and the moment was captured in a memorable photograph.
He played all three Tests against New Zealand in 1938 and was selected on the Second Wallaby tour to Great Britain only for it to be abandoned after England declared war with Germany. Upon his return home Hodgson enlisted in the AIF but broke his left shinbone a week later in a club match against Drummoyne. In 1944 Hodgson broke his collarbone against Wests and retired however within a year was on a comeback trail that, remarkably, had him on track for the 1946 tour to New Zealand.
Despite a hot run of form Hodgson was overlooked by the state selectors ahead of the final trials, a decision that suggested his passport had been stamped NTTA (never to tour again). Hodgson went on to coach Manly for five interrupted years (1947-51). When he passed away in 1982 few were surprised when the large crowd in attendance stood and clapped as his casket disappeared from view at the Northern Suburbs crematorium. Their farewell was a moving tribute to one of the true legends of Australian rugby. Aub Hodgson played 11 Tests for Australia in a six-year international career.
Hodgson fractured his wrist in the 8-13 loss to Combined Pretoria and was unavailable for selection in the first Test team. He returned to win his first Test cap at flanker, in a back-row that included Bob Loudon and Geoff Bland, in the 2nd Test, 21-6 victory over South Africa at Kingsmead. Hodgson retained his spot for the next two internationals, although both were played at No.8, to accommodate Owen Bridle and Loudon on either side of the scrum. He then suffered blood poisoning as a result of a cut to the knee ahead of the fifth Test and was ruled unavailable.
Hodgson played No.8 and was ‘Australia's greatest forward’ in the 1st Test, 25-11 win over New Zealand in Sydney. He then ruptured a thigh muscle playing for the Australia XV against the tourists a week ahead of the deciding international and eventually withdrew from the team that drew 3-3 to clinch the Bledisloe Cup.
The Wallabies did not play a Test match in 1935.
He started at flanker, alongside Owen Bridle and Russ Kelly, in the two away losses to New Zealand. Hodgson picked up a third cap, again at flanker, in the 31-6 thumping of the Maori at Palmerston North.
Hodgson badly bruised his thigh muscles as New South Wales upset South Africa 17-6 and as such he was forced to withdraw from the following week’s Test side. He returned at No.8, accompanied by Kelly and Keith Windon in the 2nd Test, 17-26 loss at the S.C.G.
He earned his final caps in the three home Test defeats against New Zealand. Hodgson played on the flank in 1st Test, 9-24 loss in Sydney but shifted to No.8 in order to accommodate ‘Cracker’ McDonald at flanker for the final two matches.