Fatherhood changes Wallabies captain Matt Hodgson’s career and life

Baa baas and babies … new Wallaby captain Matt Hodgson training in London. Baa baas and babies … new Wallaby captain Matt Hodgson training in London.

Baa baas and babies … new Wallaby captain Matt Hodgson training in London.

Baa baas and babies … new Wallaby captain Matt Hodgson training in London.

LONDON: Captaining the Wallabies will be the biggest challenge of Matt Hodgson’s career, but becoming a father has been the greatest reward and he will likely cut his spring tour short if his wife goes into labour this month.

Western Force skipper Hodgson will lead the Wallabies for the first time when they play the Barbarians at Twickenham on Sunday morning Australian time.

But on the eve of the biggest moment of his career, Hodgson opened up about how two IVF pregnancies with wife Jodi have put rugby in perspective and added extra inspiration to his Wallabies dream.

“We started [trying to get pregnant] when I was 29, I’m 33 now, and Hunter was three years in the making,” Hodgson said.

“It was a tough time, but the end product is something you never forget. It put balance back in my life, I used to focus on rugby and bring a bad day home with me.

“But having someone else in your life and someone so dependent, no matter how bad or good rugby is is, [Hunter] brings joy every time you come home and he’s another thing to play for.”

Hodgson and Jodi tried for eight months to have a child after marrying. They then moved to 12 months of injections before going to IVF.

Son Hunter, 19 months old, was born two weeks premature. Every time there was a contraction he would push on the umbilical cord and would stop breathing.

“We had to get in there pretty quick, lucky enough we were monitoring it and we’re very blessed that it all worked out well,” Hodgson said.

That’s why Hodgson and Jodi have a short-list of names for their next son, but won’t decide until he is safely born next month.

If Jodi goes into labour while Hodgson is in Europe with the Wallabies, the hard-working No. 7 will leave the tour to be by his family’s side.

“When we started trying [IVF for the second time], I never thought Wallabies [selection] was on the cards,” Hodgson said.

“I haven’t thought about it, but yes [I would go home]. We’ve worked it out and it’s highly unlikely it will happen before the end of the tour.”

New Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has picked respected flanker Hodgson to lead a team boasting former Test captains James Horwill and Will Genia.

It’s a sign of Hodgson’s standing in Australian rugby after a long battle to establish himself and playing just nine Tests since his debut in 2010.

While the ARU is battling the fallout of the Kurtley Beale-Di Patston drama, Hodgson is a feel-good story.

“We’ve got a couple of captains in this team, [Hodgson’s] been around a few years, maybe 100 years,” Cheika joked.

“He’s done a superb job with the Western Force … it comes from leadership.”

It’s a remarkable turnaround for a guy who considered quitting Australian rugby three years ago after being overlooked for World Cup selection before getting a late call as an injury replacement.

Now he’s part of superb openside flanker depth in Australia, which includes Michael Hooper, David Pocock, Liam Gill and Sean McMahon.

“[After the World Cup] I struggled to get back to that rugby … I put Wallabies on the backburner,” Hodgson said.

“To captain [Australia] is something I never thought about. There were many times where the option [to go overseas] came up, but I had unfinished business in Perth. I started something in 2006 [with the Force] and I want to finish on a big note.”

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