Wrestler Joe Moody's new outlet for talents

OUT OF MY WAY: Joe Moody swats North Otago tackler Hamish McKenzie aside during a Ranfurly Shield challenge earlier this month.
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OUT OF MY WAY: Joe Moody swats North Otago tackler Hamish McKenzie aside during a Ranfurly Shield challenge earlier this month.

Any tight heads tempted to take liberties with Canterbury's new loosehead prop should think again - Joe Moody is a former New Zealand wrestling representative.

The 22-year-old Lincoln prop won't be fazed by grappling with grizzled veterans in the ITM Cup engine room. The freestyle wrestling champion won a junior Commonwealth Games bronze medal and competed at the world junior championships.

Moody was a rugby league junior who became a handy No 8 in the Christ's College first XV. But, by then, he was also established as one of the nation's most promising wrestlers after learning his trade from two of New Zealand's top coaches at the Rangiora club.

FORMER CHAMP: Joe Moody is a former New Zealand wrestling representative.
FORMER CHAMP: Joe Moody is a former New Zealand wrestling representative.

"Wrestling did take the driver's seat for a while," Moody said this week. "I put rugby on the backburner while I was travelling around and gave wrestling a good crack.

"I got to tour America with the New Zealand junior team and I went to the Oceanias [championships] in Australia with the senior team. I went to China for the junior world champs in 2007 and got third in Scotland at the junior Commonwealth Games."

Moody still loves wrestling but thought he had a better future in rugby. "The thing that knocked wrestling on the head was I couldn't really go any further with it in New Zealand. If I wanted to pursue a wrestling career I would have had to have moved overseas.

"There's no time for it any more. But, at some stage, I'd love to get back into it after rugby."

Moody said the skills he learned in wrestling were transferable. "I've found it has helped me with rugby in those physical close encounters. We do a bit of a wrestling circuit at the start of the season – [it's] always a bit of fun getting back to that."

So with ex-grappler Moody in the mix, are All Blacks Owen Franks and Brad Thorn about to get some serious competition in the Rugby Park gym in Christchurch?

"I don't know about that," Moody chuckles. "I do my best in the gym, but I don't think I'm a worldbeater at this stage."

He says some players know of his wrestling background. He gets the odd `I don't want to mess with him too much' comment, "but it's all fun and games".

MOODY is proud to be "carrying the flag" as the only Canterbury Country player in the squad. He went to Lincoln University after leaving school to study for an agriculture diploma.

He believes he's had a good grounding on the country circuit. "As far as forward play goes, country rugby is right up there and can compete with the town guys. We're pretty tough forward packs out there."

A loose forward when he linked with Lincoln, Moody didn't move into the front row until a couple of years out of school when he was shoulder-tapped for the Canterbury pre-academy.

Moody – 1.82m tall and 112kg – dabbled in track and field at school.

He is "absolutely loving" being part of the Canterbury squad. "It's the old saying, you're living the dream, training during the day without having to go to work first and coming into training in the afternoons when you are already half-knackered. Given this opportunity and time, especially with working with the top-class coaches, I think I'll come on in leaps and bounds."

He played against a Hurricanes-stacked Wellington XV last Friday and said the 40-14 defeat was "a good wake-up call".

Now he's hoping for a chance against Auckland on Sunday as he looks to develop a long-term career. "That's definitely my No1 goal – to be a professional rugby player."

The Press