Injury robs Stags of Rutledge for season

NATHAN BURDON
Last updated 05:00 14/08/2013
Jason Rutledge
ROBYN EDIE/FAIRFAX NZ
GOOD TIMES: Southland hooker Jason Rutledge in action during a pre-season game against Otago.

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Stags hooker Jason Rutledge will have surgery on his torn pectoral muscle later this month and will be out until February, but he is determined this won't be the end of his rugby career.

Rutledge, who has played a record 130 matches for Southland, won't add to that total this season after damaging a chest muscle in the Galbraith Shield club final.

"I'm very gutted. The main belly of the pec has pulled off the arm. It's feeling really good at the moment, which is even more frustrating, but it will be surgery at the end of the month, six weeks in a sling and I won't be back in contact until February."

Rutledge, 35, said the injury occurred when he tackled Star lock and Stags team-mate Josh Bekhuis. "I've seen Jarrad Hoeata and Elliot [Dixon] do theirs before and I knew as soon as it happened what the go was."

Rutledge has been relatively lucky with injury during his playing career.

An Achilles injury in 2002 ruled him out for the entire representative season and a broken leg early in the 2007 campaign also meant a lengthy spell on the sideline.

"I suppose I'm a bit older now and it makes it tough to come back, but it's a good wee challenge," he said.

"I'd done all the pre-season this year . . . and I was ready to go, having done all the hard work. I think I've still got a huge desire to play so I'll be working hard next pre-season again."

Rutledge has retained a presence alongside the Stags, spending time with them during their training camp at Omaui and last Friday's pre-season game against Otago in Gore.

"I said I'm dying to play, but if the doc says I can't, I'll be doing whatever else I can to help. If that means sitting in front of the computer or helping with lineouts and scrums, whatever I can do.

"It's been a massive part of my life for the last 12 or 13 years and it's going to be hard to go cold turkey on it. I need to be hanging around as much as I can."

Perhaps the only silver lining from Rutledge's season-ending injury is the opportunity it has presented his good friend David Hall to return to the Stags fold and perhaps even push for a place alongside him in the 100-game club.

"Crazy [David Hall] was playing bloody good club footy as it was so there were no guarantees that I would be playing anyway," Rutledge said.

"He's hopefully in for a good season, and he and Tua [Talemaitoga Tuapati] will have a good battle. We are quite lucky losing me and still having someone with 90-odd games worth of experience. Tua will bring the excitement and Crazy has the level head."

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Rutledge said he had taken on an apprentice to help out with his plumbing business while he recovers.

"I'll be keeping an eye on him - being the boy, I suppose, bringing the bits and pieces to him."

- The Southland Times

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