Riley Hodgson helped Australia achieve a feat some thought impossible- winning a game at the American Football World Championship.
The Bull Sharks AFLW forward-turned-midfielder and her Women’s Outback gridiron team won their final game against fifth-ranked Sweden at the event in Finland earlier this month.
“We were ecstatic, it was 7-0 that game and we scored within a couple of minutes to go in the last quarter,” said Hodgson, a wide receiver and punt returner.
“We were so excited when we scored that touchdown. There was so much adrenaline, everyone was so pumped. We all left everything out on the field to make sure that team Sweden couldn’t score anything.”
Australia’s second tilt in the Championship involved three games in seven days which was hugely challenging for the players, who had only met the week before at a training camp in Sydney.
“It was surreal to be over there playing the best in the world. It has been two or three years since a lot of us have been able to play thanks to Covid,” she said.
Their first match against second ranked Canada was a case of baptism by fire; their fellow Commonwealth country won 33-6.
“We managed to be quite even with them in the first half, so we thought we had a better shot than the score actually showed,” she said.
They also endured a tough loss to Mexico (36-4) before they prevailed over Sweden to finish the competition seventh out of eight countries.
“It was good to get a win over a team who were ranked higher than us, but it was also the first win by Australia in an international game, so it was good to be part of the first ever win,” she said.
The result means they will now face runners-up Great Britain in their first match at the 2026 American Football World Championship in Germany or Mexico. 28-year-old Hodgson intends to play.
“I think I will still be at an age where I can be competitive and still be able to provide experience on the field as well as off the field too in terms of how to look after your body better and keeping your cool,” she said.
Hodgson still plans on playing with the Bull Sharks next season and is immensely proud of her reserves team making the grand final.
However, she also has opportunities to play gridiron in the US with teams in Utah and Denver. The latter is part of the WFLA Women’s Football League Association which pays players.
“It would be amazing to not have to worry about finances, especially when health services over there are so expensive.”
During her two seasons with the Bull Sharks Hodgson has played 15 games across seniors and reserves.