FOND FAREWELL: Skipper hailed for community impact
THE Cutters are a better club and Mackay a better place for Jayden Hodges’ three-year stint at BB Print Stadium.
That was the key takeaway as Cutters staff sounded off on the lasting impact the 26 year old has had on the community and its most high profile sports team.
He was to be the star rake that led coach Michael Crawley’s Cutters both on and off the field in 2020. Instead, the former Cowboys and Manly Sea Eagles star told the Daily Mercury he plans to return home to Cairns to be with family next month.
His Cutters career will end on 43 games and 10 tries.
In what he labelled a “bittersweet” decision, Hodges’ selfless call to put family first was just another in a long line of such acts that made him a well respected member of the Mackay community.
Cutters CEO Maurie Fatnowna hailed Hodges a “real leader of men” who “brought a sense of professionalism” when he arrived from Manly at the end of 2017.
“He’s not the biggest bloke but he certainly has the biggest heart,” Fatnowna said.
“He’s been a real leader at our club, particularly as an indigenous man – not only with our indigenous players but also in the community.”
Cutters board director Sam Bliss said Hodges had left a “lasting effect” on the Mackay community through his work as an indigenous liaison at North Mackay SHS and a Deadly Choices ambassador.
“He’s admired and he’s inspired kids to do the right thing,” Bliss said.
“It will be a massive loss to our community to see him go, not only for what he’s done but just the type of person he is.
“He’s an Uncle to a lot of our younger generation who look up to him.”
After 10 years away from home, living in Townsville, Sydney and Mackay to pursue his football career, Hodges said the time was right to return to Cairns “and make new memories with our family up there”.
“It was a huge honour to captain and represent this town, myself and my family,” he said.
“But at the end of the day my family has had to make sacrifices for me for my career and it’s only fair now that I do the same.
“I probably won’t be able to get around to everyone to let them know … my main message is I’m so appreciative of all the support, especially when I first came to the club.
“I’m thankful the community accepted me and my family. I’m sad to go. We’ve made some really good friends in Mackay.”
Hodges confirmed he had been in touch with ISC rivals Northern Pride about playing there next season.
“I don’t even want to picture it,” Fatnowna joked.
“I know it will probably happen and we know our friends up there at Pride are good people. If he was to play football up there he would be a fantastic acquisition.
“He is everything you want from a clubman, really.”