Wing Jason Woodward re-joins Wellington Lions

TOBY ROBSON
Last updated 05:00 07/08/2014
Jason Woodward
KENT BLECHYNDEN/Fairfax NZ
REBEL WITH A CAUSE: Jason Woodward will play NPC for Wellington this season.

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Jason Woodward reckons his younger brothers might know a bit more about some of his new Wellington team-mates than he does.

That's because after two years in Melbourne, the 24-years-old has returned to a Wellington Lions squad that's had a major overhaul in his absence.

"Provincial rugby does seem to be [getting younger]. I feel like a bit of an old head and I'm only 24, so that goes to show," Woodward said after his second day back with the team he left two years ago to take up a contract with the Melbourne Rebels.

"I've watched quite a few of them coming through the age grades over the years and a few of them are my brother's mates, so I know most of the boys. A couple I met for the first time yesterday, but it seems a tight knit team and I can't wait to get back into it."

Woodward played the last of his 18 matches for the Lions in 2012.

Of that side, 18 remain in the current squad, but with eleven of those either injured or unavailable this week, he'll still be putting names to faces when Wellington play Canterbury in a national provincial championship pre-season match in Christchurch tomorrow.

"After two years with the Lions, then two years in Melbourne, hopefully I can step into a bit more of a leadership role back here and pass on a little bit of wisdom to the younger boys," Woodward said.

Wellington will be looking for more than just a bit of leadership from a player who isn't afraid to say he's set his goals high for 2014.

"The main reason I came back was to get one of those black jerseys and if I was lucky enough to make the end of year tour, I'd be absolutely stoked," he said. "But first things first. I need to put together a good preseason game against Canterbury, so that's where the focus is at the moment."

Woodward undoubtedly returns home with his reputation enhanced after two productive years with the Melbourne Rebels where he became an automatic selection.

He caught the eye of national selectors on both sides of the Tasman.

Australian rugby were keen to naturalise the Upper Hutt product, while All Black coach Steve Hansen lamented that the national under 20s representative hadn't remained in New Zealand.

Woodward didn't want to look back with any regret and in June re-signed with Wellington and the Hurricanes on a two-year deal.

He's clearly happy to be enjoying the comforts of home before he's kicked a ball in anger.

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Woodward hopes he can play primarily at fullback during the provincial season, but said he was happy to play wing, and, if required elsewhere in the backline.

- The Dominion Post

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