“He is a world-class player whose personality and ability ideally suits our environment.”
That was Mark McCall’s assessment of Charlie Hodgson when he confirmed the signing of the former Sale Shark back in 2011. The statistics that accompany the 35 year old’s fifteen year career are astounding; 38 England Caps, a 2005 British and Irish Lions tour, 2,486 Aviva Premiership points and 239 Aviva Premiership matches with a number of months still to go in the competition.
When the domestic season closes on Saturday 28th May Charlie Hodgson will hang up his boots for the last time and make the transition into Saracens’ back room staff. Charlie will join a number of former players as part of the team that are guiding the Premiership outfit including Paul Gustard, Alex Sanderson and Kevin Barrett. From Mark McCall’s perspective ‘continuity of personnel is key’ and personally I’m in complete agreement for who better to assist and guide an Aviva Premiership team than those that have been part of the set up so recently. Rugby is an ever evolving game and one of the criticisms often housed, at individuals particularly in the RFU, is that they don’t have modern day experience of the game – not in North London!
Charlie joined the Sale Sharks straight from Durham university and went on to make 228 appearances for the side between 2000 and 2011. He was part of the most successful squad in the club’s history and the one that went on to lift the Premiership trophy back on the 27th May 2006. That season the Sale Sharks won 16 games out of 22, brushed aside London Wasps in the semi-final and delivered an emphatic 45 – 20 win against the Leicester Tigers in the final. In any squad you want your key individuals to deliver on the largest of stages and in that Aviva Premiership final Charlie secured 6 penalties, 1 conversion and a drop goal.
Now in the 2015/16 Aviva Premiership season it is the experience and fitness of Charlie Hodgson that impresses us all. As the years go by there will be fewer and fewer individuals that make their careers span into their mid and late thirties, instead the age of retirement is creeping lower due to the physical nature of the game. However, there will remain some individuals, like Charlie, Peter Stringer and Brad Thorn that defy the law books and that continue to the young guns a run for their money for as long as possible. This weekend Charlie broke the 2,500 points mark and currently has a tally of 2,504 – this milestone is a huge achievement in itself and when you put it in perspective of the nearest player currently performing in the competition is Nick Evans who is on 1,472.
When Charlie made his debut for the Sale Sharks Mariah Carey featuring Westlife was number one in the music charts, the old Wembley Stadium had just closed and Steve Redgrave had just won his fifth consecutive gold medal at the Olympics. The long and the short of it is that Charlie Hodgson has enjoyed a career that deserves applauding and spending a moment reflecting on before he hangs up his boots in a few months time.
By Emma Thurston
To see more from Emma, visit Out On The Full