55. Arthur Hodgson

55. Arthur Hodgson - ICONICON – Player Inductee

Queenstown/Carlton/Ulverstone
Wing – 1947-60

MAINLAND CAREER

76 games, 7 goals for Carlton, 1948-52
Carlton Best & Fairest, 1950
4 games for Victoria – National Carnival Team, 1950
Represented Victoria vs South Australia, 1951
Sporting Life Magazine ‘All-Australian’ Team 1950, 1951

TASMANIAN CAREER

c. 75 games for Mines United (1941-43) and Lyell (1944-47) – Queenstown Football Association
c. 130 games for Ulverstone, 1953-60; Captain/Coach, 1953-59
Lyell QFA premierships 1944, 1945, 1946
Ulverstone NWFU premierships 1953, 1955, 1956, 1957
Ulverstone State premiership, 1955
Bartram Medal, 1945 (QFA Best & Fairest)
Wander Medal, 1955 (NWFU Best & Fairest)
Lyell Best & Fairest, 1945
Ulverstone Best & Fairest, 1960
17 games for Tasmania – National Carnival player 1947, 1953, 1956, 1958
c. 25 intrastate games for QFA, NTFA & NWFU
Alstergren Trophy 1954, 1955 (Best NWFU representative player)
Tasmanian Team of the Century (Wing)
Ulverstone Team of Champions, 1950-2011 (Wing – Captain)

Historically, there has been no greater test in Tasmanian football than performing on the fearsome ‘Gravel’, Queenstown’s infamous grass-less oval. Countless players have braved the knee and elbow-destroying surface of the ground over the decades, however none who have gone on to achieve greatness braved it for longer than a lightning fast champion of exceptional skill who became one of this state’s most accomplished players. An outstanding performer for club, league and especially state, his name is still spoken of in revered tones by those well-read in the game’s history, but in Tasmania he is remembered simply as ‘The Black Prince’.

Arthur Edward Clarence Hodgson was born on the 8th of January 1926 in Sydney, NSW. His father Keith had been born in Queenstown on Tasmania’s west coast, and in 1935 he returned along with his young family, including nine-year old Arthur. Hodgson first took up Australian football at school, and despite the fact that it had been largely foreign to him until he moved to Tasmania it quickly became apparent that the young man had a particular talent for the game. In 1941 – aged just 15 – Hodgson made his senior debut for Mines United in the Queenstown Football Association, and within two years was being hailed as one of the most promising young players ever to feature in Queenstown football.* After three seasons with Mines, Hodgson transferred to the Lyell Football Club for the 1944 season, and would be a member of three consecutive QFA premiership teams with the Maroons from 1944-46, playing primarily as a follower. It was during this period that Hodgson’s immense talent first became known to the wider Tasmanian football public: in 1944, Hodgson featured for Lyell in a match against New Norfolk (coached by ex-TFL champion Len Pye), and was named ‘Best on Ground’ in Lyell’s five-point win. The following season, he was the only QFA representative chosen in a Northern Tasmanian combination that faced an RAAF team in Launceston, while back at home he claimed both the Lyell and QFA Best and Fairest awards, the latter by a record 19 votes. Hodgson’s star was rising fast, but his greatest accolades were still to come.

In the lead-up to the 1947 National Carnival in Hobart, Hodgson was named ‘Best on Ground’ in a famous win by the QFA over a TFL ‘B’ team at North Hobart Oval. So impressed were state selectors by the 21-year old Hodgson that they named him in the Northern team to play the main TFL side three weeks later in Launceston. Playing at half back, Hodgson once again played a starring role, and as a result he was named in Tasmania’s 25-man squad for the Carnival. This was an incredible achievement, as no player from Tasmania’s west coast had been selected in a Tasmanian state team since the inaugural National Carnival in 1908. Hodgson appeared in all of Tasmania’s four matches at the tournament, and his form playing mostly on the wing was excellent, being named in the best players in the opening match against Queensland. Approaches for Hodgson’s services subsequently came in thick and fast, and for a while he appeared certain to relocate to Launceston. However, no NTFA club could secure him accommodation, and as a result Hodgson opted to accept an offer from VFL club Carlton. Hodgson subsequently relocated to Victoria ahead of the 1948 season, in the process becoming just the second player after the great Vic Barwick in 1903 to be recruited to the VFL straight out of Queenstown football.

Hodgson made his senior debut for the Blues in Round 4, 1948 against Footscray at Princes Park, the first of seven senior appearances for the season alternating between the wing and the reserves bench. He established himself as a regular senior player the following year, and at season’s end was one of Carlton’s better performers in their disappointing 73-point Grand Final loss to Essendon. 1950 was to be the peak of Hodgson’s VFL career, arguably his greatest accolade being his selection as one of Carlton’s two representatives for the National Carnival in Brisbane. As with his selection for the 1947 tournament, Hodgson’s selection again saw him make history, this time as the first player of Tasmanian ‘origin’ to represent both Tasmania and Victoria at a National Carnival; only Darrel Baldock, Peter Hudson and Barry Lawrence have gone on to replicate this feat. In addition to his Carnival appearance, Hodgson would claim the 1950 Robert Reynolds Trophy as Carlton Best & Fairest, and was also selected in ‘Sporting Life’ magazine’s All-Australian team, something he would again achieve the following season.

Hodgson was an exceptionally skilful footballer: he was noted as an excellent mark and kick, and possessed ball control the equal of any modern champion of the game. He was also tough, courageous and unafraid to throw his body around if the situation required it, but never to the point of unscrupulousness. Hodgson’s greatest attribute however was his pace, something he put to expert use streaming down the wing, his favoured position. This particular element of his game had been evident right back to his junior days in Tasmania: in late-1944, 18-year old Hodgson won the Devonport and Latrobe Gift sprint races, and also claimed the 220 yard title at Burnie. He continued to dabble in sprinting after moving to Victoria, winning a race at the Stawell Gift Carnival and being at one stage trained by the same man as Australian sprinting great John Stoney. Many thought that Hodgson could have made a legitimate career of sprinting, teammate Jim Clark once stating that Hodgson “could have won (the) Stawell and Burnie (Gifts) if he really wanted”. However football was always his primary focus, and during his time at Carlton he was reckoned to be the fastest man in the VFL, with many at Carlton viewing him as the quickest player to wear the Navy Blue for a good many years.

After five seasons and 76 games with Carlton, Hodgson returned to Tasmania ahead of the 1953 season, and accepted the captain-coach position with Ulverstone in the NWFU. The Robins were one of the competition’s powerhouse clubs (having claimed premierships in 1950 and 1951), and under Hodgson they proceeded to dominate the competition throughout the mid-1950s. In his first year at the helm Hodgson guided the Robins to a perfect season, defeating Wynyard by six points in the Grand Final. After failing to defend their title in 1954, Ulverstone reeled off the next three premierships in succession, largely thanks to the efforts of star players such as Hodgson, ‘Paddy’ Martin, ‘Chum’ Saltmarsh, Garth Smith and John Heathcote. The 1955 season was particularly memorable, as Ulverstone became the first team from the north-west to claim the coveted State Premiership, defeating TFL premiers New Town and then NTFA champs Longford to take the crown.

Hodgson’s own form during this period was as brilliant as ever – now playing in the centre as well as on the wing, he claimed the Wander Medal as NWFU Best and Fairest in 1954. He was also an automatic selection for NWFU combined teams, appearing more than 20 times in intrastate matches and against visiting mainland sides, and winning back-to-back Alstergren Trophies as the Union’s best representative player in 1954 and 1955. At interstate level, Hodgson went on to appear for Tasmania at the 1953, 1956 and 1958 National Carnivals, ultimately representing the state on 17 occasions. With his appearance at the 1958 Centenary Carnival in Melbourne, Hodgson (along with SA champion Fos Williams) joined Western Australia’s W. ‘Nipper’ Truscott as the only men to have appeared at five National Carnivals.

After seven seasons at the helm of Ulverstone, Hodgson relinquished the captain-coach position in 1960, handing the reigns to young star Garth Smith; he would still play a vital leadership role however, being named vice-captain to Smith and also taking charge of the club’s U19s side. 1960 was to be Hodgson’s final season as a player, and he bowed out in the best possible way, winning the club’s Best & Fairest award at 34 years of age (shared with ruckman ‘Barney’ Howard). Unfortunately he could not end his career with another premiership, as Ulverstone – despite being minor premiers – were bundled out of the finals race in ‘straight sets’, Hodgson’s final match being a Preliminary Final defeat to eventual premiers Burnie. By the end of his career, Hodgson was estimated to have played 327 games of senior football, including seven premierships.

Post-retirement, Hodgson maintained a strong connection to the Ulverstone Football Club, being named a Life Member and forming a great friendship with legendary coach Max Brown. Hodgson suffered from illness in his final years, and he passed away on May 12th 2003, aged 77. His death was met with sadness by much of the football world, with Carlton donning black armbands for their Round 8 AFL match against the Western Bulldogs at Princes Park in memory of their former champion. The following year, Hodgson was accorded the great honour of being named in the Tasmanian Team of the Century, where he was – of course – selected on a Wing; in the official painting produced by artist Jamie Cooper, Hodgson was depicted with scrapes on his right knee, a nod to his beginnings on the Queenstown gravel. When Ulverstone named their Greatest Team of 1950-2011, Hodgson was an obvious choice on one wing, and was given the additional honour of captaining the side.

Arthur Hodgson has left an untouchable legacy as one of Tasmanian football’s most brilliant champions. He is again best summed up by teammate and Carlton champion Jim Clark: “Arthur was – in my opinion – the best (to come out of Tasmania), and went back to Tassie far too early…. when you look at it he was playing on the gravel in Queenstown, and three years later won a Carlton Best & Fairest.”

*Due to the high permanent male population involved in mining in Queenstown, the QFA was the only major Tasmanian football competition not to go into recess during World War II.