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Ben Hudson plans for a nearing retirement

Ben Hudson of the Magpies poses for a photo during the 2014 Collingwood portrait session on March 3, 2014. (Photo: Sean Garnsworthy/AFL Media)(Editor's Note: A digital filter has been applied to this image)
Ben Hudson hopes to stay at Collingwood when his playing days finish
At my ripe old age, I’ve had a good innings
Ben Hudson
AT FIRST glance, it seems like your typical team meeting led by Ben Hudson, but look closer and you’ll discover that no Collingwood player is safe.

Hudson isn’t concentrating on tactical elements or analysing the opposition, instead, he’s issuing fines for players who’ve posted ‘selfies’ on social media.

Dayne Beams is a repeat offender. So, too, is youngster Ben Kennedy.

As the players engage in this light repartee, it’s not hard to see why Hudson has attracted a cult-like following over his 11-year career.

The veteran ruckman is known for his distinctive beard, quick wit and laid-back demeanour – he knows how to galvanise a playing group.

On the field, Hudson last year became the 25th player to represent four AFL clubs; he’s played for Adelaide, Western Bulldogs, Brisbane Lions and Collingwood.

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Recruited by the Magpies as a ruck coach who could fill in when needed, Hudson played seven AFL games last season to take his career tally to 168 since 2004.

But the big man was placed on the Magpies’ long-term injury list after undergoing shoulder surgery just over a month ago.

At 35, he knows he’s unlikely to pull on the boots again.

“At my ripe old age, I’ve had a good innings,” Hudson told this week.

This time it’ll be for good, though, having called it quits on two separate occasions – from the Bulldogs in 2011 and the Lions in 2012 – before Collingwood coaxed him out of retirement.

Hudson would be the first person to acknowledge he wasn’t the most talented player to grace the field.

Instead, he’ll be remembered as a tremendously hard worker who used his physical attributes to his advantage, while forging a reputation as one of the game’s best sledgers.

As his playing career winds up, Hudson has reaffirmed his desire to continue in a ruck coaching position beyond this year.

“I’ll certainly remain at the Pies if they want me around, which I assume they do,” he said with a laugh.

“The Pies have given me that opportunity to have that coaching role, so at the moment I’m pretty keen to stay with them … I certainly see some growth there.”

A key part of his work is to supervise the team’s ruck division, in particular emerging talls Brodie Grundy and Jarrod Witts.

“The opportunity I’ve been given is to mentor, look after and be responsible for Brodie and Jarrod in that role and fast-tracking them as young ruckmen,” he said.

Hudson has also turned his attention, alongside his wife Rita, to a new business venture, Tall Performance – an academy that provides specialised coaching to budding ruckmen and key position players.

“I certainly see there’s a gap in the market and I think there’s a lot of potential for growth, hence I have a bit of a passion to trying to get (Tall Performance) up and going,” he said.

Individual training is imperative, according to Hudson, who supports the old adage that tall players take longer to develop.

“I came into the game at 25 and obviously I was a mature body but pretty raw at the game,” he said.

“By learning the trade a bit earlier or getting specific training in ruck and tall work, (players) can bridge that gap and be ready to play straight away.”