Blues loosehead prop Alex Hodgman, a big lump of a 25-year-old, is finally going places in terms of his development, game time, and also where he plays his Mitre 10 Cup rugby.

From this year he will represent Auckland rather than Canterbury, where he has been since he left Mt Albert Grammar seven years ago to join the province's highly-regarded academy in Christchurch.

His first senior provincial game was for Canterbury against Auckland in 2014 and his last one was too; he was a member of the red and black side who lost last year's Premiership final at Eden Park, an extra-time thriller which will live long in the memory of those who witnessed it.

For now, though, Hodgman, who got through 80 minutes against the Chiefs last weekend – a faint black eye and facial scratches are still obvious evidence of a significant shift up front - is concentrating on the Blues and a return to a place in Christchurch that holds many happy memories.

To say that Hodgman, a former Crusader before he moved to the Blues for the 2017 season, is looking forward to returning and starting against some of his old mates is putting it mildly.

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"I'm trying to stay calm," he told the Herald this week. "It's exciting. I've spent a lot of time down there. It's almost like going back home.

"It was a good time of learning for me," he said of his move south. "It taught me to really grow up and to do all the little things right, to balance life better. That was probably the key for me coming up here and doing what I love now."

Hodgman's reason for the shift from Canterbury back to Auckland is simple; he now has a five-month-old son and he wants to spend as much time with him as he can.

"I told [Canterbury coach] Joe Maddock fairly early after having a child and with my wife up here that family has to come first."

Alex Hodgman during a Blues training session. Photo / Photosport
Alex Hodgman during a Blues training session. Photo / Photosport

If Hodgman, now getting a good run of opportunities in the No 1 jersey due to his fitness and Karl Tu'inukuafe's absence with a virus, seems like a slow burner of a player, that's probably because he is. Injuries put a handbrake on his progress after he arrived at the Blues in 2017 – that year he tore his right calf muscle and last year he dislocated a bone in his wrist.

Hodgman's scrummaging and athleticism around the field have always marked him out as one to watch, but it was probably his efforts in playing the full match against the Chiefs alongside tighthead prop Ofa Tuungafasi which really brought him into the public eye.

It's almost unheard of for both props to play the full game these days, but that's what coach Leon MacDonald decided after Tu'inukuafe was a late withdrawal and it paid off, the Blues not only getting the win but also a bonus point with a try via a lineout drive after the final hooter.

"It's a return to the old days really," MacDonald said afterwards. "We lost Karl late and they both stood up."

The Crusaders will be missing the injured Owen Franks and Codie Taylor tomorrow night but they will still field a starting front row of Joe Moody, Andrew Makalio and Michael Alaalatoa, with All Black locks Scott Barrett and Sam Whitelock behind them.

It will be a huge challenge for Hodgman and his side – the Blues have lost their last nine games against the Crusaders – but the big frontrower's enthusiasm for the challenge could be infectious.

"Every game you play in Super Rugby is hard," he said. "Your body takes a beating. I'm looking forward to the game, more than anything. It's just exciting. I just have to put as much passion and heart into as I can and the result will take care of itself."