Luke Woodcock epitomises the cricket tragic.

Last month, at 35 years young, he contributed 151 runs to the highest partnership in New Zealand cricket's provincial history, a 432-run dismantling of Auckland with fellow opener Michael Papps.

Wellington won the match by an innings and 205 runs at the Basin Reserve.

Last week Woodcock earned a 128th cap for Wellington - the most by any New Zealand first-class player for one province - in their innings and 43-run trouncing of Otago at the same venue.


In an age where the razzmatazz of T20 cricket grows in the marketplace, Woodcock revels in the Plunket Shield which he says "tell you a lot about character".

"This is the format I hold in the highest regard," Woodcock says, embarking on his 17th first-class season.

"So much goes into it physically and mentally, but there's nothing better than winning a four-day game with your teammates because of that work."

Woodcock plays in all three formats for Wellington, but insists the traditions of the first-class game must endure.

"I know things are changing [with the proliferation of T20 leagues around the world] but the best test players transfer their skills to T20s. Take batsmen like Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla and Kane Williamson as examples.

"Getting your four-day game in order is how I judge cricketers coming through. The other formats follow."

Woodcock's role in the first-class game has gone full circle.

He started as an opening batsman against Otago on February 18, 2002 when he made 30 and 12. However the left-arm orthodox spin, which would see him enjoy a brief limited overs career with the Black Caps in 2010 and 2011, came to the fore. Woodcock took four wickets for three runs to help secure a four-wicket win. Those remain his best four-day figures.

He gradually shifted down the order, before Bruce Edgar asked him to don the pads first again when he took over as coach for the 2015-16 season.

"Otherwise he might have slid out of the side," Edgar says.

"I detected an immediate glint in his eye, a commitment, and he has stepped up."

Woodcock averaged 38.89 that season and 40.78 last season with two centuries in each.

He was selected for New Zealand A's rain-affected warm-up against Pakistan last summer.

"His batting is so reliable across the three formats," Edgar says.

"He's gutsy and resilient; you never see him injured or on the physio table. He knows his game inside out, knows how to pace an innings, and sometimes gets called "Bevo" after [Australia's master closer Michael Bevan] as a result.

"Take the partnership with Michael Papps. It was a case of gnarly old batsmen cashing in."

Woodcock is known in cricketing ranks as the "unofficial mayor of Johnsonville".

He has played for the Wellington club since he was a child, clocking up 137 premier appearances as of last season's annual report with the club's record runs (6118) and centuries (11) tally.

Woodcock turned out for them on the weekend.

"I've spent a big part of my life around club cricket, and I try to play as much as I can.

"After getting an extra day off with a win inside three days [against Otago] I'll suit up.

"You've got to remember where you came from, so I'll probably drop in and have a couple of beers with the guys afterwards at the club."

"He is tremendously loyal," club captain and manager Rick Mudgway says. "If he's away, I get texts from him asking for score updates and, by the time I reply with my fat little fingers, I'm getting another."

Such reverence extends to the Wellington set-up.

Jeetan Patel, who clocked up his 250th first-class match against Auckland last week, has played with and against Woodcock at school, club and provincial level.

"He's one of those battlers you need in your team because of the mentoring and leadership he offers the group.

"He mightn't be the guy that takes the game away from you, but everyone respects Luke Woodcock. He puts the yards in and deserves to reap the rewards."

Patel cites Woodcock's exuberance as key to his charm.

"He's got some mannerisms we like to take the mickey out of, but he's an old-young boy in that team; young in the enthusiastic way he plays the game, and old in the way he is regarded as a veteran.

Woodcock bats during the Wellington Firebirds vs Auckland Aces Plunket Shield cricket match at the Basin Reserve. Photosport
Woodcock bats during the Wellington Firebirds vs Auckland Aces Plunket Shield cricket match at the Basin Reserve. Photosport

"The amount of coffee he has every day is extraordinary, and he's not afraid of a toasted sandwich or a chocolate brownie. Everyone has their vice."

Woodcock's maiden first-class century celebration remains legendary after a seven-hour second innings occupation at Eden Park Outer Oval. Wellington went on to lose the 2004-05 State Championship final to Auckland.

"They effectively had to stop the game for half an hour so he could get around the ground and shake everyone's hand," Patel laughs.

"It was phenomenal, and he still celebrates hard now if he gets runs or takes a wicket or a catch. It shows how much passion he has for the game."

"Everyone rides the emotional wave with him," Edgar says. "When he scores a 100 he does a jig, and when he gets a wicket there's a familiar fist pump with his left hand."

Woodcock accepts his reputation for superstition.

"Yes, the right pad and right shoe go on first; I do this thing with the strap of my gloves three times before I bat and I play three pretend shots on the way out there. All players have something.

"The Wellington guys picked up on it early and there's always a laugh before I walk out to bat, but it hasn't gone as far as [South African opener] Neil McKenzie making sure every toilet seat in the dressing room was down."

After playing 132 first-class games - including four appearances for New Zealand A - Woodcock still hankers for a test debut.

"I was potentially close last summer with the start I had, and I haven't started badly last week. Runs are your currency as a batsman and, if you're in a winning team, players get chatted about more. Older players have started test cricket."

The dream continues with the support of his partner Odele, and children Jackson, 4, and Ruby, 2.

"They understand how cricket works," Woodcock says.

"I've been to the UK a couple of times when they have stayed behind, but we've managed that well and other guys in the team have kids, so there's a bit of a network which is great."

If nothing else, Woodcock knows his name will feature alongside Papps in the New Zealand first-class annals for generations after their feats on October 23 and 24.

"People are still talking about it. At one stage I thought we'd get them for 20 [Auckland were 12 for 7 before being bowled out for 62] and be batting before drinks.

"I felt like Pappsy [on his way to 316] was playing on different wicket to me. Not much was said between overs. Even if we'd scored 20 or 30 each, that would probably have done the job in the context of that innings.

"It was something special we'll look back on proudly."

As Woodcock will with his career.