Returning Melbourne Rebels back Reece Hodge says he is looking forward to adding something to the side in the Rebels’ first home game against the Highlanders.
Hodge, who will make his return via the bench after replacing winger Semesi Tupou, admits he is itching to contribute to the side after being forced to watch on the sidelines during the Club’s opening round win against the Brumbies.
After putting in several months of intensive rehabilitation work, Hodge says he’s ecstatic at the thought of returning to the pitch for the first time in 2019, with the backs utility yearning to help the Rebels claim their first home win over the Highlanders since 2013.
“It’s obviously pretty happy times for me,” Hodge said.
“It’s been four months watching on the sidelines throughout preseason and obviously in the first game against the Brumbies, it was hard not to be out there and sing the team song in the changerooms.
“You don’t really know what you’ve got until it’s gone, so to be back in the mix this week and to add something to the team in what will hopefully be a victory will be awesome.”
One thing the 24-year-old won’t have to worry about is his running capacity, as Hodge says he’s in personal best fitness form heading into Friday night’s match.
The one thing Hodge admits he may have to accustom himself to is getting acclimatised to the tempo of skills during the match.
“The nature of rehab is you run run run, fitness shouldn’t be an issue with the amount they flog you in rehab,” Hodge said.
“The thing for me is more being about getting the rust off the hand eye coordination and getting the mix of kicking and passing right.
“The past four to five training sessions have been about getting that rust off and feeling comfortable within the team again, and I feel like I’m at the stage now.”
In a testament to his durability and consistency as a player, this will only be the second time Hodge has come off the bench for the Rebels during his 42-game career with the Club.
And in an eerie coincidence, Hodge will play against the same side when he first came off the bench in Super Rugby.
“I think against the Highlanders back in 2016, I was coming back from a quad injury and it was my only other time off the bench for the Club,” Hodge said.
It will be the Rebels’ first meeting against the Highlanders since going down to the side 37-43 in Dunedin in the final round last year.
While some may think it’s a grudge match against the New Zealand side, Hodge says the team has moved on, and will not be dwelling on what happened in 2018.
“Our destiny was in our own hands, but unfortunately, we came up a little bit short,” Hodge said.
“It’s a new season and we want to go two from two and have a really good start and try and get Melbourne and the crowd behind us early on in the season.”