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Hodge the oil in Brisbane's system

Chris Fagan and Luke Hodge discuss tactics - AFL,Brisbane Lions,Luke Hodge,Chris Fagan
Chris Fagan and Luke Hodge discuss tactics

WHETHER it's helping Dayne Zorko shake a tag, reminding Lewy Taylor to play direct, or advising Dayne Beams on his leadership, the Luke Hodge effect at Brisbane is felt far beyond the two hours of game day.

There were some raised eyebrows when Hodge backflipped on his retirement last year to sign a two-year deal with the Lions, but eight rounds in it's been a success.

The four-time premiership Hawk did not move north to hunt success, add numbers to his games tally or recapture glory of years past.

After working with a young, injury-riddled Hawthorn backline in 2017, Hodge discovered a love of educating, and made the move to further that passion alongside Chris Fagan.

"I was here to help younger guys," Hodge said in the build-up to Sunday's game against his former club.

"If that means I don't get the ball but we're playing the football we want and the younger guys are doing the stuff the coaches want, that's a tick as far as the team going forward.

"I'm 33, I'm not here to play my best football, I'm here to try and make guys 19, 20 and 21 develop and improve in their football."

Although there's no set expectation, or weekly time allocation, for Hodge to mentor younger players, it's happened organically, and often.

He's worked with second-year half-back Alex Witherden extensively, and even traded notes with 20-year-old forward Eric Hipwood. Hodge says Jarrod Berry is one midfielder the wider footy public should start taking notice of, such is his work ethic and attention to detail.

Sometimes Hodge is there to educate mistakes, sometimes he's there to cuddle them.

Then there's the on-field coaching.

It's not his doing alone – far from it – but Brisbane is conceding just 99 points a game this year, down from 114 last year.

As one Lions official said, Hodge is the oil in the system, he helps it function more smoothly. If he wasn't there, things would still function, but just slowly and not as efficiently.

He is another voice to narrate coaching instructions through the week, another voice the players trust.

The Lions have a touch more credibility now with Hodge on-board, both with their fans and the broader industry.

Membership has risen to in excess of 24,000, up from just over 21,000 last year.

It's silly to suggest Hodge is the sole reason, and Brisbane's encouraging finish to 2017 is just as likely, but the fact he signed and showed faith in the direction of the club has undoubtedly had a flow-on effect.

On-field he was praised for being a strong contributor in the back-half of last season, and not much has changed in his early days at the Lions.

Although some have questioned his playing value, Champion Data statistics show the veteran defender is performing just as well in 2018 as he did in 2017.

He's ranked in the top third of the competition for one-on-one contests (winning 36 per cent and losing just 21 per cent), is only marginally behind in disposal efficiency at 74 per cent and has bumped his intercept possession from 5.4 to 6.7 a game.

"It's been as I expected," Hodge said.

"I watched a lot of footy of Brisbane before I came up … if anything they've listened and tried to adapt the advice I've given more than I thought.

"Every time Fages tells them something or an assistant coach or a senior player does, they almost do it to the enth degree, which shows me it's a good young group."

Hodge is in Brisbane for two years, and while his playing value is a fluid situation, his value in so many other areas cannot be under-estimated.

"Hodgey's the most selfless footballer I've had anything to do with and that's the reason here's here," Fagan said.

"That's a quality we want our group to have."