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Luke Hodge’s impact on Brisbane Lions has been more than he imagined

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BRISBANE senior coach Chris Fagan knew Luke Hodge would be a great addition at the Lions.

But he didn’t know that the four-time premiership winner and dual Norm Smith Medallist would be this great.

Ahead of Sunday’s unofficial “Luke Hodge Cup” between Brisbane and Hawthorn at the Gabba, Fagan said the Hawks legend had gone “above and beyond’’ expectations in his role as a virtual playing assistant coach.

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Fagan coaxed Hodge out of a short-lived retirement after 305 games with the Hawks to help rebuild Brisbane because he was “the most selfless footballer that I’ve ever had anything to do with’’.

“That’s the reason why he is here. That’s a quality that we want our group to have. They are developing that. They are not quite there yet,’’ Fagan said.

“But to be able to learn from somebody who fully understands the need to sacrifice, sometimes your own talent and ability for the better of the team, that’s what he does and that’s what he brings.

“He’s been marvellous at that in the time he’s been here.’’

Fagan said that selfless, team-first quality manifests itself in a number of ways, with the coaching staff and playing group all benefiting from Hodge’s experience forged from 16 seasons at the top level.

“He willingly gives his time to others when he doesn’t need to do that, but he does it above and beyond what’s expected,’’ Fagan said.

“He’s taken that role (playing assistant) to another level. He’ll sit down with players and watch their vision with them and go through it and educate them.

“To the help he gives Murray Davis as the backline coach, to the help he gives the midfield coaches, to the little bits of advice he gives to the players on the track on how to position their body to get an advantage over an opposition player, he does it all.

“While he is not officially a part of the leadership group, he is in there as a mentor, and I reckon Dayne Zorko’s leadership has really come on this year as a result of some of the work he has done with Hodgey.

“He doesn’t care who you are, if he thinks you need to hear something, he’ll say it in the best possible way and that’s being selfless too, because you are putting yourself at risk of becoming unpopular or upsetting someone.

“He always acts in the best interests of the team. That’s why he was such a great captain at Hawthorn, because he couldn’t be questioned on that.’’

Fagan said he felt “a bit odd’’ the first time he came up against Hawthorn in Launceston last year after spending so long at the club but Hodge had shown no sign of nerves or tension this week.

Brisbane made no changes to the side that lost by 14 points to the Bulldogs last weekend, while the Hawks swung the axe on the team that was pipped by Sydney with six changes.

Jaeger O’Meara (calf), James Frawley (shoulder), Will Langford, Tim O’Brien, Brendan Whitecross and Daniel Howe are out for the Hawks, with Paul Puopolo, Mitchell Lewis, James Cousins, David Mirra, James Worpel and Kaiden Brand coming in.

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