Coach's home game
By STEVE SPINKS
MARIST Brothers rugby league coach Craig Hodges is the modern day Mr Mum.
Tomorrow he will lead the Brethren into the Bananacoast Credit Union Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League elimination final against Mullumbimby at Oakes Oval, Lismore.
During the week, Hodges is the stay-at-home Dad, looking after the day-to-day requirements of his three young daughters.
But here's the twist.
If Hodges needs any advice on football, he doesn't have to go far.
After all, his wife Sharon is a full-time development officer with the Australian Rugby League.
"She (Sharon) is never short of advice and not all of it is about rugby league," Hodges chuckled.
In a sign of the times, the Brothers mentor is one of a host of fathers now taking over domestic duties around the house including the day-to-day management of his daughters, Dakota, 8, McKenzie, 5, and Ruby, 2.
Sharon, his high school sweetheart, stayed at home originally to look after the children while completing a school teaching degree at university.
"She had two kids at home and was doing full-time uni," Hodges said.
"Then she gave birth to Ruby half-way through. She didn't defer uni and the kids didn't go one day into day care.
"She rides me because I have it easy with (only) one kid at home."
When Sharon graduated, there was a shortage of teaching jobs around the Northern Rivers and the couple were not keen to move away.
"The job for the ARL came up and they liked the idea of a school teacher and a woman being involved," he said.
"She got the job, so I finished up work as a painter.
"Ruby starts pre-school next year, but I've had 12 months to muck around with her and it's been the best 12 months of my life."
However, Hodges admits he hasn't assumed control over all the domestic duties.
"Sharon doesn't let me cook, but that was voted by the kids," he laughed. "I'm allowed to do barbecues and that's it.
"I'm a bit dodgy with the housework, but I get the basics done. It's hard to fit it all in among watching footy videos."
His opponent tomorrow, former club-mate Dave Latta, believes Hodges has an unfair advantage.
"Hodgey owes all his success to his wife's knowledge and background," he teased. "I might try to get Kim (Latta's wife) in on the same program."
Jokes aside, the elimination semi-final tomorrow should be a beauty.
Both sides play a physical forwards- orientated style of football.
Brothers will look to props Chris Farrell and Simon Andrews and second-rower Luke Scott for most of their yardage, while Mullum will rely on Adam McKenzie, Craig Abbott and Luke Butler.
Yet both sides also have men out wide with the wow factor.
The battle between Brothers centres Graham Smallwood and Niko Vakarara-wa and the Giants' Glen Godbee and Paul Latta could decide the outcome.
Making the showdown even more enticing is Latta playing against his old club in a semi-final for the first time.
These big matches usually come down to the battle between the halves and the big men up front.
Trying to separate the teams on paper is like trying to separate two girls fighting over a Barbie doll.
But maybe Hodges could.
MARIST BROTHERS: Fullback, Nathan Tolley; wingers, Adrian Gooley, Rod McFarlane; centres, Graham Smallwood, Niko Vakararawa; five-eighth, Jake Campbell; halfback, Brent Peterson; props, Chris Farrell, Simon Andrews; hooker, Scott Gibson; second-rowers, Luke Scott (c), Kevin Walker; lock, Alan Campbell. Bench (from): Tim Tredigo, Harry Witt, Trent Clarke, Luke Campbell, Jason King, Brendan Randall, Shaun Coe. Coach: Craig Hodges.
MULLUMBIMBY: Fullback, Tim Abbott; wingers, Jeff Funnell, Joel Christie; centres, Glen Godbee, Paul Latta (c); five-eighth, Chase Nelson; halfback, Adrian Browning; props, Adam McKenzie, Luke Butler; hooker, Bernard Browning; second-rowers, Craig Abbott, Brett Archibald; lock, Paul Mitchell. Bench: Aaron East, Mitch Morris, Sean Doherty, Joe Robinson. Coach: David Latta.
Reserve grade: Cudgen v Murwillumbah.
Under-18s: Ballina v Byron Bay.