Windhoek-Namibian-born Wallabies flanker Richard Hardwick has set his sights on filling the shoes of retiring great Matt Hodgson after re-signing with the Western Force for the 2018 Super Rugby season.
Hardwick has enjoyed a meteoric rise this season, capped by his elevation into the Wallabies squad for the recent Tests against Fiji and Scotland.
The 23-year-old has played 17 times for the Force since making his debut last year, and is ranked in the top 10 in Super Rugby for forced turnovers this season. Hardwick, who can play anywhere in the back row, was born in Namibia but raised in Western Australia.
With club legend Hodgson retiring at the end of the season, Hardwick wants to take over the responsibility of being the team’s go-to option.
“With Hodgson hanging up the boots, I want to step up and play in that No. 7 jersey and try the best I can to fill his boots. He’s a legend of our club and he’s done so much for the club, but I’ll do my best to give everything to the team,” said Hardwick.
Born in Namibia’s metropolis Windhoek on the 31 May 1994, Hardwick is one of Western Australia’s rugby success stories, with the back-rower coming up through the state’s junior ranks before being signed by the Force as part of their extended playing squad.
Hardwick said it was an easy decision to re-sign with the Force, despite the Perth-based franchise facing an uncertain future.
“ Wallabies is my home. It’s where I was brought up, and I’ve played all my rugby in Wallabies. I’ve got mates who have done the same thing, like Ross Haylett-Petty and Chance Peni, who I played with when I was 15,” Hardwick said.
He attended Churchlands Senior High School in Perth and was selected for the Australia ‘A’ Schoolboys team in 2011. He earned his stripes playing for University of Western Australia (UWA) in the local Premier Grade competition.
Hardwick previously played in the Juniors for UWA. In addition, he spent two years with the Future Force squad preparing to become a Super Rugby player.
Named as a member of the Force’s wider training group ahead of the 2016 Super Rugby season, Hardwick didn’t have to wait long for his debut, arriving as it did in a match away to the Highlanders at the end of March. He made two starts and two substitute appearances during the season.
Hardwick won the Phil Waugh Medal in the grand final of the 2016 National Rugby Championship for his man of the match performance on the way to Perth Spirit’s first NRC title win. – Additional info: wwos.nine.com.au