Riley Hodgson has a very good excuse to miss the Bull Sharks AFLW finals campaign: she will be strapping on a gridiron helmet to compete in the American Football World Championship in Finland.
Hodgson was meant to feature in the Australian team called ‘Women’s Outback’ at the same tournament in 2017, but a knee reconstruction put her ambitions to wear the green and gold on ice.
Her selection this time around feels surreal for the 28-year-old.
“I’m still getting over it. I won’t really believe it until I’m there, it’s been a seven-year journey for me so I just really want to get over there,” said Hodgson.
“Representing my country is something I have always wanted to do and to do it in a sport that I love playing, and on the biggest stage that I can, is something that I will never forget.”
Hodgson, who grew up in Tweed Heads, was introduced to the sport by an American school friend 10 years ago.
She joined gridiron nursery the Gold Coast Stingrays, becoming hooked on the strategic game.
“I like to describe it as a chess game you always have to be thinking three, four, 10 steps ahead of the competition on both sides of the ball.
“Even though it’s a very structured style of game you still have to be able to adapt and react on the go. It’s really challenging but really fun,” she said.
Hodgson’s skill as a wide receiver have seen her win three club titles with the Stingrays, two state championships and an 11-a-side title with the Aces 11.
However, like all sports Covid-19 impacted their last two seasons limiting game time and recruitment options.
Hodgson was able to try out for the Australian team at a combine in May where her speed, agility and strength was measured by coaches.
The 45 women who were selected entered a five day training camp in Sydney last Thursday before they flew out on Tuesday.
They will play three games over the 11-day knockout tournament which features seven other international teams.
Their first battle is against Canada on Saturday.
“They are ranked number two in the world so it’s going to be a very challenging game for us. It’s the best of the best from around the world so regardless of who we go up against I know it’s going to be a fun challenge,” she said.
Hodgson hopes the extra exposure encourages more women to pull on the shoulder pads and gloves.
“I think it will really help putting us on a stage that we didn’t have before. We can promote it through social media channels and word of mouth is such a big thing.
“If people can say that they know someone who played gridiron in a world cup it could trigger so many questions,” she said.
Despite moving to Brisbane, Hodgson is still committed to the Bull Sharks and will be back in the Bond guernsey next season.
She has played 15 games over the last two years across seniors and reserves.