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'I don’t see why not': Former All Black on joining Joe Schmidt in Wallaby switch

By Ned Lester
Alex Hodgman during the Blues warmup. Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images

More Kiwi recruits could be on the table for the Wallabies in 2024, with former All Black props Alex Hodgman and Jeffery Toomaga-Allen suiting up for the Reds in the upcoming Super Rugby Pacific season.

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Hodgeman donned the black jersey four times in 2020 but also qualifies for Australia through his father, and expressed an interest in pursuing the gold and green colours when he signed with the Queensland club.

An interest he reiterated when asked by media this week.

“Yeah, yeah, I don’t see why not,” Hodgman said during a press conference on Thursday.

“I’m always trying to challenge myself. I’m always trying to become a better version of myself, and if that happens to come my way, then I’ll take it.”

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The 30-year-old has the benefit of familiarity with new Wallabies coach Joe Schmidt, who was previously with Hodgman at the Blues before moving into a role with Ian Foster’s All Blacks.

Although, as was the case with the coach selection, there in an appetite from the Australian rugby public to stay true to their homegrown talent and invest the Wallabies experience in talent that has come through the local systems.

An appetite that Schmidt acknowledged in his opening press conference on Friday and that Hodgman also understands.

“I think ideally, you’d want to grow the game here first,” he said.

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“There’s a lot of talent. What’s awesome is we’re getting the academy guys from the Reds and they’re actually joining our training sessions, and there’s a lot of potential here.

“Ideally, you’d want to look at your home first. But I don’t understand why people always say, ‘New Zealand teams are this and that’. When you verse Aussie teams, it’s going to be tough, and it’s always tough. Even though sometimes the scoreboard doesn’t dictate it, the battles you have with the Aussies teams, they’re tough.”

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With young Wallaby prop Zane Nonggorr already in the Reds environment, plus the addition of Flying Fijian Peni Ravi, the two Kiwi additions make for a well rounded, experienced group to combat the loss of Taniela Tupou.

For youngsters like Nonggorr, George Blake and recent Junior Wallaby Massimo de Lutiis, Hodgman can provide strong mentorship, and is making the most of his lessons learnt in New Zealand while starting his new chapter.

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“I experienced this before with the All Blacks when I was trying too hard to try become an All Black, I started doing things that were out of character,” he said.

“What I want to do is just be a great Reds man and then, from there, whatever opportunities come my way, I’ll take.

“But, at the moment, it’s like how can I get on the field? How can I compete with the guys around me? And how can I put my best foot forward here? Whatever comes from that, comes from that.”

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There are new challenges to be found in the Sunshine State as well, as Hodgman admits to learning the hard way.

“I’m sweating right now. It doesn’t look like it, but underneath I’m very sweaty.

“But it’s cool because it adds another mental barrier that I haven’t had, or experienced, in New Zealand.

“In NZ you just train, you train hard. But here, it’s a different mental toughness because your lungs are burning constantly, so it’s been a good challenge.”

Now in camp, the aforementioned props aren’t the only new faces. Les Kiss succeeded Brad Thorn as head coach of the team following a 2023 season where the team finished eighth.

The coach had made a positive initial impression with Hodgman and the Reds.

“Any pre-season is hard, it doesn’t matter where you go. They always have targets they want to hit or get you to this sort of level, but what I’ve really enjoyed about Les and the staff is they’ve really taken the keys to rugby and rugby’s been the real focus and primary goal.

“Rather than just hit the field and go, we’ve had a real fine balance. I think that’s helped us a lot as a group bond and connect and find the little kinks and figure them out.”

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