David Holwell will be remembered for a big boot and an even bigger heart. The 34-year-old farmer and father of two talks to Sam Worthington on the verge of his 100th game for Northland against former province Wellington tomorrow.
David Howell will become Northland's 22nd centurion when he straps the boots on against Wellington tomorrow.
Holwell debuted for Northland in 1995 as a 20-year-old against North Harbour. Northland: 1995-98, 2005-09 (99 games) Hurricanes: 1998-2006 (76 games, 676 points) Wellington: 1999-2004 (61 games) Leinster (Ireland): 2004 (22 games) Blues: 2007 First class games: 254 First class points: 2181 (36 tries, 450 conversions, 365 penalties, 2 drop goals).
Q) What have you been doing today?
A) A bit of farming, a bit of training. They keep me busy.
Q) It's fitting that your 100th game for Northland is against Wellington isn't it?
A) Yeah it is, I had a lot of good times in Wellington. It was my adopted province and I loved every minute of it. So it'll be great to play against some of my old team-mates and good friends. It's a special occasion for me and hopefully we can put in a performance that gives Wellington a run for their money.
Q) Who do you keep in touch with from Wellington?
A) I'm not too good at the old texting and all that sort of stuff. I've kept in touch with Snakey [Conrad Smith] a fair bit, he's probably the main one. When we meet up I like to have a few beers and tell a few stories from the good old days.
Q) Why did you retire and come back?
A) Well I didn't really officially retire. People said I retired and I didn't really say anything. I've had ongoing shoulder problems and they're finally starting to give up on me after all the years. I had a month off after the club rugby season and I was feeling not too bad and I thought if I could help out Northland in any way I will. So I'm back playing.
Q) Have you had the 100th game in the back of your mind for a while now?
A) I guess I'd be lying if I said I hadn't. It has been in the back of my mind and I've never played 100 games, I never made it for Wellington or the Hurricanes. It'll be great to look back and say I made 100 for Northland. I love the province and playing for the Cambridge blue jersey. It's got a lot of history and I enjoy every minute of it.
Q) Northland's future in the NPC is shaky at best. Has that been a distraction?
A) Not really. Obviously we can only control the controllables and that's playing rugby. Whatever happens outside of that, so be it. I don't really want to get into that, it's pretty frustrating, pretty annoying, but whatever happens, happens.
Q) Do any of the 99 games stand out?
A) In '97 we won the second division, beat the Central Vikings so that was a big moment, to get back into the first division. There has been a lot of hard times as well. Northland went three years without winning a game and I was part of it for the last year and that was pretty tough. But we have stuck together and come through the other side.
Q) You're mixing rugby with farming. Do you think the modern player needs to mix work with their rugby?
A) Yeah, I'm a big believer in it. I think there should be a balance in your life, especially between the ages of 20 and 30. When you're a professional rugby player you get a good income and it's a good chance to make the most of that income. To invest in something or just get your teeth into something outside of rugby so when you're off the field and not at training you've got something else to put your mind to. There's many opportunities out there and I guess it's the guys that take them off the field that will benefit in the years to come when they hang their boots up. I don't think there's enough younger guys doing it. There are definitely some, the Conrad Smiths and those guys of the world that are more ambitious and I just think the balance is not quite right yet. But I guess it's up to the individual.
Q) What has kept you motivated over the years?
A) I love being involved and part of a team. The camaraderie between players and going out on the field and playing for your mate. That to me is the big thing in rugby and it's no different to when I was at Wellington, we would go into battle for each other. Just to look your mate in the face after the game and think, yep, we gave it everything. That's what rugby's all about. I just love it and I guess I'm going to miss that the most when I eventually finish.
Q) When will that be?
A) Probably in about three weeks. I'd love to be 21 again and ripping into it back in Wellington. My mind says yes but my body says no.
Q) How's the farm going?
A) It's going good, I'm not making much money but I'm enjoying it anyway. It's a dry stock farm, just cattle.
Q) And the family?
A) There's Dianne my wife and I've got a seven-year-old daughter Ella, who was born in Wellington and Darcy's three, coming up four. My girl's a Hurricanes fan, she remembers those days so you never know, she might have a Hurricanes jersey on come Sunday.
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