WHEN I read the business card of Dawn Hodge it simply said ‘sports massage and soft tissue therapist’.

However, I had been warned there was a lot more to her than meets the eye.

Like playing National League rugby, being an award winning Island golfer, a hockey player representing the Isle of Wight, virtually unbeatable as a young sprinter and long jumper, a skier in the French Alps and now being the only lady member of the Bembridge Lifeboat crew.

Isle of Wight County Press: Dawn Hodge is a member of the Bembridge RNLI Lifeboat crew.Dawn Hodge is a member of the Bembridge RNLI Lifeboat crew.

With the name of Hodge, it was no surprise she grew up in Bembridge, but cars were never in her career plans.

Her life has always been governed by sport.

In her early days, as well as doing well at local schools events, she was a member of Ryde Harriers and the Vectis Swimming Club.

“My athletics hero was Daley Thompson and underneath his poster on my wall I hung the medals I won in local competitions,” said Dawn, who also represented Hampshire schools.

She also played county hockey and netball.

Isle of Wight County Press: Dawn Hodge is a talented sportswoman who works as a sports massage and soft tissue therapist.Dawn Hodge is a talented sportswoman who works as a sports massage and soft tissue therapist.

Like many other talented all-round athletes, sometimes Dawn wishes she had concentrated on one major sport.

On the other hand, she may not have made so many lifelong friends had she not participated in so many.

Her unexpected introduction into rugby was purely down to her sister Peta, who had moved to London following her studies at York University.

When Dawn visited her and her housemate, both keen rugby players, she was quickly pounced upon to play rugby for their team, Bromley LRFC, one of the first women’s rugby clubs in Britain.

Her sprinting talents on the wing meant she scored many of their tries.

Isle of Wight County Press: Dawn Hodge in Blackheath WRFC colours.Dawn Hodge in Blackheath WRFC colours.

At that time, women’s rugby was in its infancy and many felt they should not even be playing such a physical game.

How times have changed and the major clubs now sign young girls from an early age.

When Dawn moved on to Leeds University, her game really took off.

She played for England Students and then Headingly Ladies, who were in the National League.

They eventually joined up with Roundhay to form the Leeds team and her excellent form led to her playing for the North of England.

While living in Yorkshire, Dawn became the national women’s development officer at English Basketball.

She then moved on to work for the GB Sports Council in London and then Sport England.

Bromley, one of her old rugby clubs, had encountered a few problems in ground sharing with the men’s team, and had moved on to join the famous Blackheath club, of the National League, where they were made very welcome.

Dawn mainly played inside centre, but for one season captained the team from fly half.

Despite coming towards the end of her rugby career, Dawn was selected for the super fours, based on an Australian idea.

Isle of Wight County Press: Dawn Hodge.Dawn Hodge.

She was included in the list of 80 names of England’s top players and played for the South of England.

At this time the ladies game had changed considerably.

There was lottery funding and they came under the umbrella of the RFU.

Many youngsters were also playing the game and players were fitter, more skilful and better coached.

Luckily, Dawn escaped any serious injuries.

In Wales, on one occasion, she dislocated a kneecap. But thanks to a doctor in their team, it was clicked back in place.

She also broke fingers and ‘popped’ a rib on other occasions.

I did wait a while before I asked her what happened in the scrums.

For a while, Dawn moved to Chatel, in the French Alps, to run a ski lodge as a business. It proved successful but was not really what she was looking for.

“I had this romantic idea of what France was really like. It was probably not the best place to go to find out,” admitted Dawn.

Isle of Wight County Press: Dawn Hodge in action for Blackheath WRFC.Dawn Hodge in action for Blackheath WRFC.

The best thing to come out of her short French residency was that she started to play golf in the summer on a pay and play course.

That casual start was later to lead to honours back home.

Dawn, who came back to the Island in 2010, joined Ryde Golf Club and quickly obtained a handicap, before moving on to the Shanklin and Sandown Club, where her father was a member.

Over a season, she won the best medal card scores at the club and qualified to play against the best in the south of England.

Isle of Wight County Press: Dawn Hodge in action in the Island Games in Gotland 2017.Dawn Hodge in action in the Island Games in Gotland 2017.

She won that from 120 competitors and went on to the national finals, with massive scoreboards and media attention.

Dawn did the Island proud and finished seventh.

In 2017, she was in the Isle of Wight’s ladies team who brought silver home from Gotland.

Her three colleagues were Sophie Beardsall, Sammi Kean and Lucy Burke.

Amazingly, 31 years earlier, she has represented the Island in the Faroe Islands in the athletics squad.

If next year’s Guernsey Island Games go ahead, they will field the same four ladies.

Isle of Wight County Press: Dawn Hodge, right, was part of the Isle of Wight's silver medal winning golf team at the Island Games in Gotland 2017.Dawn Hodge, right, was part of the Isle of Wight's silver medal winning golf team at the Island Games in Gotland 2017.

Dawn has always loved team sports and in the last few years was missing the excitement of being in a team and all the competitive spirit that brings in helping one another and creating friendships.

That all changed when one of her clinic clients, John Keyworth, turned up with an injury.

Being the operations manager of the Bembridge Lifeboat, he turned on his charm and gave her an idea for a new challenge.

Mind you, he didn’t manage to sell her a carpet!

“I thought about it and contacted their coxswain, Guy Willing, who I knew,” said Dawn.

“He invited me down on training nights and I loved it.

“I thought I might be too old and I had no maritime experience.

Isle of Wight County Press: Dawn, right, in action for Blackheath WRFC.Dawn, right, in action for Blackheath WRFC.

“It’s great being back in a team where everyone looks out for each other and there is so much healthy banter.

“The mainland training in Poole was very tough, but I enjoyed it.”

Dawn runs her very successful business in Bembridge and is always ready to help clients with either their sports injuries, or those incurred in normal life.

I finally found out what happens in the world of women’s rugby — on and off the park.

Apparently, they do go on fancy dress tours, they do lose players and often become noisy and drink too much.

What happens in their scrums? Sorry — I’ll have to keep that a secret.