18 May, 15:44
It's down to the wire now for the five contenders who have been shortlisted for the ultimate individual accolade in northern hemisphere rugby, ERC European Player of the Year 2013.
Edinburgh Gunners and Stade Français Paris will next weekend make it nine teams to have been awarded an ERC Elite Award, the Gunners reaching the milestone in style at Murrayfield on Saturday with the visit of the triple champions and defending Heineken Cup holders Toulouse.
"It is amazing just how much the tournament has changed and grown in prestige since we played that first match in the tournament over nine years ago," said Hodge.
"Every year it just seems to get bigger and bigger - not to mention harder and harder to win, let alone qualify for the knock-out stages.
"We have been in the same group as Toulouse for three of the last four campaigns so I guess we both know each other reasonably well. They are an exceptional club - you probably could not ask to play against a better team in Europe.
"And the fact that we have got back-to-back matches against them over the next two weekends is a huge challenge for us."
Back in the 1996 / 1997 tournament, Edinburgh failed to win a match, going down by 57 points to Dax; 29 points to Bath; 22 points to Pontypridd and 20 points to Benetton Treviso, but in 2003 / 2004 they became the first Scottish team to qualify for the quarter-finals after finishing as group runners-up to Toulouse - who they beat 23-16 in the Scottish capital.
"At the beginning it did have something of an experimental feel about it," said Hodge. "In those days in Scotland we were still playing for our clubs most weekends and then only coming together as a district side for Heineken Cup and just a couple of other matches each season.
"That put us at major disadvantage against the other sides and it certainly showed in our early results in the tournament.
"But what the Heineken Cup has done is exposed us to different styles of play and opened up new avenues to play against a far greater variety of teams and players.
"When you play the same teams week in and week out things can get predictable but in the Heineken Cup you never know exactly what to expect - particularly from the French sides - and the value of broader experiences is marvellous.
"And now it is the biggest competition there is in the Northern Hemisphere, with huge crowds and massive TV coverage while the standard of some of the rugby being produced is just fantastic.
"Our aim this season is to qualify for the quarter-finals, although losing in the last seconds at Llanelli certainly did not help. We know we have to keep winning our home games and then try to pick up something away from home at either Toulouse or London Wasps if we are to qualify.
"But there is a great spirit in the squad and things have been going well for us so far this season so we will just try to keep that momentum going."