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Force favourite Matt Hodgson retires

NZN 16/06/2017 Justin Chadwick

Retiring Western Force veteran Matt Hodgson has told the player group he will do everything within his powers to ensure the Perth-based franchise isn't axed by the ARU.

Hodgson choked back tears on Thursday while informing his teammates he'd decided to end his decorated career.

The former skipper made the announcement public on Friday, saying the time was right for him to move on after 12 seasons at the elite level.

Hodgson, an inaugural squad member, is widely regarded as the heart and soul of the Force.

His bravery on the field is unrivalled.

And more importantly, his steady leadership off the field during the franchise's most turbulent year has been invaluable.

The ARU want to axe either the Force or the Melbourne Rebels ahead of next season.

The ongoing uncertainty has personally affected a number of Force players.

Hodgson, a qualified mental health first aider and an ambassador for the LIVIN charity, has stepped in to help counsel any teammates who have been struggling to cope with the situation.

The uncertainty has also taken a toll on Hodgson himself, with the star flanker admitting he has struggled to maintain his love and passion of the game throughout the saga.

Hodgson will move into a yet-to-be-determined coaching role at the Force next season.

But whether there will even be a Force remains to be seen.

Hodgson says it would be crazy for the ARU to remove them given that WA has turned into a fertile Wallabies breeding ground.

The recent ascension of Dane Haylett-Petty and Richard Hardwick into Wallabies ranks has been proof of WA's potential.

An emergency meeting will be held next Tuesday between the ARU and its stakeholders to discuss the uncertainty.

Hodgson will attend in his role as player director of the Rugby Union Players' Association.

He holds hope the ARU can still be convinced to retain all five Australian franchises.

"Because why would you take a team out now when the competition's going to change and alter in 2020?" Hodgson said.

"I told the players yesterday my first job is to make sure the Force is still here.

"I'll probably be even more vocal now because I don't have to worry about getting a contract.

"I'm looking forward to that meeting on Tuesday."

Hodgson is still on the comeback trail from a calf injury suffered in the 34-12 loss to the Hurricanes on June 3.

The Force only have two games remaining - against the Rebels in Perth on July 7 and against the Waratahs in Perth on July 15.

Hodgson hopes to be fit for both but if worst comes to worst, he'll only play against the Waratahs - even if it's only "on one leg".

MATT HODGSON

Age: 35

Height: 185cm

Weight: 101kg

Super Rugby caps: 139 (19 tries)

Super debut: Round 1, 2006 v Brumbies in Perth

Wallabies caps: 11

Test Debut: 2010 v Fiji, Canberra

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