Jason Rutledge ready for final club onslaught
Jason Rutledge will return to the rugby field on Saturday after a month on the sidelines and he is determined to claim a spot in the 2014 Southland Stags squad.
Rutledge was one of the standout players in Southland's premier club rugby competition through the first half of the season but a calf tear has sidelined him for the past four weeks.
The veteran hooker will return for his Woodlands club in their semifinal showdown with Pirates-Old Boys.
The fixture provides an interesting match-up between Rutledge and Pirates-Old Boys hooker Talemaitoga Tuapati.
The two are frontrunners in the race for the Stags No 2 jersey this season.
"It should be a good wee battle, obviously there are Stags spots up for grabs, so I need to be out there playing," Rutledge said yesterday.
The 36-year-old has the record for the most games for Southland with 131 games in an impressive career which started in 2000.
Last year he missed the Stags campaign through a pectoral injury.
He conceded with a business and a young family he did wonder whether he should step away from having another shot at playing for the Stags again but those thoughts didn't last long.
"I've got my [plumbing] business going really well, so I've sat down a few times and thought 'should I do this?' In the end, I just thought I'm going to be playing only another couple of years with the Stags at the most. I've just got to grab it and try to take it and sort my business out afterwards."
Finishing with a season-ending injury last wasn't all that appealing to Rutledge either.
"I didn't want to finish like that," he said.
"I at least wanted to give myself another chance and whatever happens from there happens. If I decided not play - and I didn't do all the pre-season stuff with the Stags - and just played club rugby, I would be a bit frustrated at this time of the year, when it's time to get into the Stags and I hadn't given the selectors something to at least have a look at."
Rutledge, Tuapati, Marist's Dillon Halaholo and Malo Magele, from Blues, look to be the hookers competing for a place in the Stags squad.
Rutledge's long-time Stags team-mate David Hall was also a contender but has been ruled out for the season because of a bicep injury.
"I didn't play last year, so I see it as a position I want to get back rather than give up I suppose. It is a shame for Crazy [David Hall] and I feel for him because I know exactlyhow it feels," he said.
Before the Stags squad is named though Rutledge is determined to help his Woodlands club win their third straight Galbraith Shield title.
- The Southland Times