Joe Moody back on the park and lapping it up
Joe Moody couldn't be blamed if he regarded the Canterbury No 1 jersey with a sense of suspicion before pulling it over his head tonight.
When Moody was last sighted in his provincial colours he was being carted out of the Cake Tin, having suffered a broken lower leg in last year's National Provincial Championship final against Wellington in late October.
It wasn't just the painful injury that caused Moody so much angst; it also forced his withdrawal from the All Blacks' end of year tour and resulted in Jeff Toomaga-Allen being called in as a late replacement before the squad flew out a few days later.
So while the All Blacks were touring Japan and Europe, Moody had to undergo a lengthy rehabilitation programme after having a rod inserted in his busted leg.
Because he didn't return to the Crusaders until they faced England in June, he never had enough time to prise Wyatt Crockett's out of his loosehead prop position during the Super Rugby season but All Blacks coach Steve Hansen made sure he knew he hadn't dropped off the radar.
With Tony Woodcock unavailable because of a shoulder injury, Moody was selected in the Rugby Championship squad and finally made his test debut when he played the final 10 minutes against the Wallabies in Sydney on August 16.
Perhaps, it was no surprise that prior to kick-off his well wishers sent the idiom often quoted in acting circles.
''A lot people sent me messages and had a bit of a laugh with things like 'break a leg' and that sort of thing,'' Moody said.
''But that [suffering an injury] never crossed my mind. I just knew I had to get out there, do a job and do my best.''
That 12-12 draw at ANZ Stadium prevented the All Blacks setting a world record but Moody took a different slant on it all.
He was just pleased to finally represent his country and become All Black No 1134 after what had happened in the NPC final.
''I would not call it a relief to get out there. Despite the result I was just pumped, really excited that I had done it. In saying that, it is not the final step for me, either. I do not want to be a one-test All Black.''
The return of Charlie Faumuina resulted in Moody being squeezed off the bench for last weekend's test at Eden Park and he has been given permission to rush back for Canterbury's match against Northland at AMI Stadium tonight.
Northland, coached by former All Blacks hooker Derren Witcombe, humiliated Wellington by thrashing them 35-5 in Whangarei last weekend.
Their emphasis, they have said, will be on their defence after watching Canterbury belt Auckland and Wellington in their opening games.
For Moody, it will be an opportunity to get a rare start this season and shake off some rust.
The enthusiastic 25-year-old also notes his mended leg is stiffer and though he doesn't expect that to change, he said it was not a negative.
''I does not affect my pace or anything like that. I cannot think of anything where it does affect me - other than if I had to measure the range of motion.
"That is the only thing that is the noticeable difference between my right and left legs.''