Hawthorn will be without four-time premiership star Luke Hodge for round one of the AFL season because the former skipper neglected to make a phone call.
The Hawks dropped a bombshell on Friday when they announced their leadership group had suspended the 32-year-old for failing to meet club standards.
Hodge, who will miss the club’s season-opener against Essendon at the MCG, said he had a personal matter to attend to and admitted he had failed to adequately inform the club he wouldn’t be at training.
“I had something to do, which was important to me, but in saying that it is a simple thing just to make a phone call,” Hodge told reporters after he featured for Box Hill in a VFL practice match at Princes Park.
“Especially with a new captain, new vice-captains … they’re just upholding the standards that we’ve held for the last six to eight years, which have held us in good stead.
“I fully support the decision … I’d love to be out there against Essendon but I think for the benefit of the club and where we’re going in the future it’s the best thing.”
Hodge handed the captaincy to good friend Jarryd Roughead in January, with Isaac Smith and Luke Shiels appointed vice-captains.
Hawks legend Dermott Brereton was among those who felt the punishment didn’t fit the crime but Hodge said it was important the same standards applied to all players.
“It’s a simple thing to communicate, I was probably a bit slack on that side of things,” he said.
If I had my time again I’d still do what I had to do but I’d just make a phone call.
“I can understand where they’re coming from … if you’re the youngest or the oldest guy you stick to the rules.”
Hodge declined to expand on his reasons for missing training, adding only that it was a personal matter.
It is a terrible look for Hodge and Hawthorn, given what has happened at the club through the off-season.
Coach Alastair Clarkson stunned the AFL last October when he traded Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis, who finished first and second in their best-and-fairest voting.
Then Hodge gave up the captaincy, with key football department figure Chris Fagan also leaving to coach Brisbane.
Now the Hawks are without their main on-field spiritual leader for the start of a season where they suddenly look vulnerable.
While Hodge is one of the AFL’s toughest players and most-respected figures, the Hawks fined him $5000 at the start of the 2015 finals series when he blew .068 in a drink-driving offence.
Hodge then had a quiet game in the qualifying final loss to West Coast but returned to form with a vengeance as he became a premiership winner for the fourth time.
“Luke understands that he did not meet the standards of Hawthorn on this occasion,” Hawks football chief Jason Burt said.
Unfortunately there was a breakdown of communication on Luke’s behalf that led to a misunderstanding of his training expectations.
“The sanction is reflective of the standards and values of our club of which Luke has played a large role in creating and driving.”