Book Review: the Scott Hodges story

When I unwrapped this on Christmas morning I knew my wife, bless her, hadn’t quite purchased the footy book intended – albeit I’ve always followed with interest and awe the fortunes of the SANFL variety of Magpie. Surprisingly, the subject of this biography has always, and still does, follow Collingwood in the AFL.

Nonetheless, she must have had a sixth sense for this raw account will resonate for anyone with an interest in footy and how life as a professional sportsperson isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be, no matter how successful.

Like most Victorians my knowledge of Scott Hodges was surface level – a head tilt to rival Rod Carter, the prodigious mullet, equally prodigious goalkicking feats at Port and then an underwhelming turn at the Crows. Whilst at AFL level Hodges never hit the same heights, bags of 11, 8 (x2), 7 and 6 (x2) in a career spanning 38 games and 100 goals suggest there was more to his story than met the eye.

Of course in Adelaide he was a massive star – with an equally massive target on his back. Like Jimmy Barnes, Hodges grew up in Adelaide’s rough as guts northern ‘burbs. Whilst he enjoyed a more loving and stable home life, outside those four walls it was a jungle out there.

Staunchly Port, the former cheer squad member realised every boyhood dream and then some – 153 majors and a Magarey in 1990, famous goals in big finals, not to mention an incredible eight flags with the Magpies. He even married legendary coach John Cahill’s daughter.

As a child growing up in Centrals’ territory, Hodges had long known the level of envy and hate Port Adelaide inspired. In terms of the acrimony surrounding Port’s bid to join the AFL which led to the birth of the Crows, it would seem Hodges became one of the greatest casualties.

Whilst the sharp shooter wasn’t overly enthused joining the enemy within, I was shocked to learn how badly he was regarded by Adelaide supporters. Treatment in general by the Crows over his initial three-year stretch was pretty ordinary (and subsequently after a gap year back at Port, Hodges, to his utter regret, agreed to rejoin the Crows in ’96 – only to be used as merely a pawn for trade to Port Power).

A victim of his own success and weight of expectation, the increasingly injured and largely unwanted spearhead began a slow spiral into depression and anxiety. A familiar tale unfolded – denial, self-medicating with drugs and alcohol, further denial, marriage break-up and rock bottom. By the time Hodges’ career ended his body and spirit were broken.

There’s startling revelations besides Hodges’ dalliance with suicide; how the Crows aided and abetted a Tony Modra birthday bender and other assorted shenanigans miraculously covered up, and that Hodges was almost killed by a punter at the infamous Ramsgate Hotel in 2003 (shortly before David Hookes died in similar fashion).

The true hero emerging from the Scott Hodges rollercoaster is second wife Kerry. At one point she fell down the same kind of black hole. No one could begrudge her walking away given what she endured over an extended period. An achingly personal Valentine’s Day letter written to Scott is something else.

As might be expected, Hodges’ tome (written in the first person) lacks the literary sensibility of Jimmy Barnes, though guided by journalist David Penberthy’s light editorial touch this is a candid, vivid portrayal that doesn’t pull any punches. A chapter penned by Hodges’ psychologist also provides engaging insight. Similar themes to Barnes emerge; low expectations and self-esteem being an easy mark for industry sharks. Bad luck and timing also curtailed Hodges’ career and life trajectory as much as a strong fight or flight compulsion and predisposition to anxiety.

Owing to the era he played, Hodges has led a tough, hard working life that might have ended the same way as four Port Adelaide teammates. As with Working Class Boy/Man, Hodges’ story serves as inspiration for countless others to reach out before reaching for a rope or bottle of pills.

@JeffDowsing

Lifeline
13 11 14
http://www.lifeline.org.au

Beyond Blue
1300 22 4636
http://www.beyondblue.org.au

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