Usually it is the older players forced to retire due to injury but at just 23, Canberra Raiders young gun Haydon Hodge has made the decision to retire due to a chronic knee injury.
It all started in 2011 when he ruptured his ACL, followed by an injury to his patella tendon in 2013. He took a year off from the sport in 2014 and looked to make a successful comeback this year.
He was named in the Raiders Auckland Nines squad and some of their trial games but after putting himself through the paces, he knew that the knee was not ready to deal with week-to-week contact.
Whilst he is disappointed, he knows he gave himself every chance to make a successful return.
â€œItâ€™s been a really tough road through the recovery process in attempting to come back from the knee injuries and I know Iâ€™ve given it everything I could to give myself a chance of making a comeback to professional footy,â€ Hodge said.
â€œThe reality is though that my knee is not up to the heavy workload you need to compete at NRL level so Iâ€™ve made the decision not to continue on with the Raiders as a player.”
He was also full of praise for the club who stuck by him during his turbulent injury period.
â€œThe clubâ€™s been absolutely wonderful over the past two years while Iâ€™ve dealt with my injuries, they didnâ€™t have to give me another shot but they did and I can walk away now knowing Iâ€™ve given it everything I had and I can be proud of the effort I put in,” said Hodge.
Whilst his professional playing days are over, Hodge will look to build upon his previous work as a coach and with the Raiders junior development program.
â€œLast year I did some coaching with the Raiders juniors and Iâ€™m really keen to stay involved with the Raiders development squads,â€ Hodge said.
â€œIâ€™ve been able to complete a Business Diploma and a Certificate 3 in fitness while Iâ€™ve been with the club and Iâ€™m looking at doing a certificate 4 in fitness now as I look to set myself up for a career after footy.â€
Whilst he may not play at the elite level anymore, Hodge says he does have a few smaller clubs that have taken an interest in getting him on board as a player.
â€œIâ€™m talking to a few clubs at the moment about playing in the Canberra Raiders Cup and Iâ€™ll probably make a decision on where I play over the next couple of weeks,” said Hodge.
The club are pleased to have had Hodge come through their system and praised him for his commitment, work-ethic and application.
â€œThere was never any doubt in Haydonâ€™s application to his training and the work he put in just to give himself an opportunity is something he can be very proud of,â€ said Raiders Football Manager, John Bonasera.
â€œIt’s great news that he wants to stay involved in the clubs junior development programs as heâ€™s the perfect example of the type of commitment and attitude weâ€™re looking to bring out of our younger players.
â€œWe certainly wish him all the best for the future and he can walk away from the elite level knowing he gave it everything he had. We would like Haydon to remain involved with the club and there are opportunities for him with our junior squads which will hopefully provide him with a pathway for the future.â€