Tasman lock Alex Ainley signs one-year extension at the Highlanders

Alex Ainley has signed a one-year extension with the Highlanders.

Alex Ainley has signed a one-year extension with the Highlanders.

The boss of Taylor's Contracting is still waiting for Alex Ainley to return to work.

When the veteran lock signed his first Super Rugby contract with the Highlanders in 2015, his employer at the time, Charlie Taylor, told him he would keep his job open, allowing him to pursue his professional rugby dream at 33.

You see, Taylor probably expected him to be back a year later.

But Ainley, who turns 36 this Saturday, is quite enjoying playing rugby for a living and on Thursday it was announced that he had signed a one-year extension, keeping at the Highlanders until the end of the 2018 season.

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Ainley will also continue playing for the Tasman Makos in the Mitre 10 Cup.

"I love my footy. The boys in the team are bloody good and the family enjoy it down here so to get another year, I'm over the moon," said Ainley, who is the fourth oldest player in this season's Super Rugby competition.

"For the past five years it's been year by year and I never thought I'd go this long. But every year my body is feeling good, I still feel like I'm playing okay and they obviously still want me. It's a hell of a job to have, running around with your mates."

When asked if he had other offers on the table, Ainley said yes. Although it didn't seem like it was a tough decision as the two options were either re-sign with the Highlanders or return to Taylor's Contracting in Nelson.

"I always talk with the boss, Charlie Taylor, fairly regularly because he deals with my club rugby with Wanderers as he's the main sponsor there. He always said there's a job when you come back.

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"I was talking to him recently and he said there's a job there now and we were talking about coming back but I said I had to wait for the Highlanders."

Ainley may have had to wait until his early 30s before finally getting a shot at Super Rugby but he's still managed to tick off some impressive milestones late in his career, winning the Super Rugby title in 2015 and just recently beating the British and Irish Lions.

"We knew years ago that the Lions were coming down," Ainley said. "So you look forward to it, you hope you're in the mix and you're injury free and getting a bit of game time and that it's a possibility that you'll get a run. But the fact that it worked out, that I did play and we won, it was huge. It's still a bit of a dream. It was just awesome."

Ainley has previously played in Italy and Japan and although it remains unlikely at this stage of his career he said he isn't ruling out a move overseas again in the future. However, for the moment his job is hitting rucks and winning lineouts at the Highlanders, meaning Taylor will have to wait another season.

The Highlanders host the Reds in Dunedin on Friday as they continue their march towards the playoffs.

 - Stuff


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