It's fair to say Hawke's Bay Tui rugby player Gemma Woods has never lacked mongrel.

In fact Woods, 30, is the first to admit she had too much of it earlier in her career including the 2014 season when she was handed a 10-week suspension for punching a spectator after being red carded in a game. These days that mongrel is more of an asset for her and it's more controlled.

"I've been training with Rod Langdon at the Napier Boxing Club and that mongrel is being channelled in the right direction," Woods explained.

"I've had a couple of fights in the past and I want a couple more before our Tui season begins. Whoever Rod can get to fight me I will be happy to take on."


"I decided it wasn't worth being stood down and boxing has helped that. I see the young ones coming through and I enjoy being a role model for them ... I tell them not to do what I did," Woods said.

A yardie for C3 at the Port of Napier, Woods, also admitted she drunk too much alcohol during the 2018 club rugby season and has reduced the intake in her quest to be fitter for the Farah Palmer Cup campaign this season.

"I've lost 8kgs down to 80kgs. That's where I want to be to play No 8 again this winter," said the former halfback who is likely to play her 50th first class match for the Tui this year.

However her immediate priority is to help her Taradale team retain their Hawke's Bay Sevens title in Waipukurau this weekend. Taradale coach Albie Baker said the Central Park-hosted tournament will be the ideal opportunity for Woods to show Hawke's Bay Sevens women's coach Daniel Rodden she should have been in his team which played at the December national inter-provincial tournament in Tauranga.

Baker was surprised she didn't get the nod on the back of her composed play and quality leadership when Taradale were down to six players for the second half of last year's final in Waipukurau after Natasha Greville was red carded. Despite being one player down Taradale beat Manawatu's Manukura 15-14 in a thrilling final.

Woods, who has played in two title-winning teams in Waipukurau, wasn't as disappointed as Baker but at the same time agreed her experience and mongrel was missed by the Hawke's Bay side which finished 11th in the 12-team competition.

"I realised when I saw a huge list for the Hawke's Bay training squad and it didn't have my name on it that I wasn't wanted. Aiming for the team this year is a possibility but 15s is more my thing," Woods said.

The 2001 Napier Ross Shield player, Woods, also agreed Taradale have the necessary ammunition to retain their title. They also have an extra incentive.


Should they win it will be the fifth consecutive title for Black Ferns pivot Krysten Cottrell who won three titles with Manawatu's Feilding Old Boys Oroua before returning to her home club last year.

"It's Krysten's 27th birthday this weekend too so that would make it pretty special," Woods, a frontrower in sevens, said.

"Basically my job is to power it up and hook up with our young speedsters. It's good to have Krysten there in the playmaker's role too," she said.

She is eager to see how 16-year-old frontrower Charlie Ewart performs today.

"I taught her how to lift at lineout time the other night. She is quite strong and has loads of potential."

Promising speedsters Jahna Watson and Barbara Tuapawa are tipped for bright futures in the code. Woods added Taradale were rapt to secure the services of Tui winger Tori Iosefo who has the ability to suck in plenty of defenders and create space outside her.

Iosefo became available this weekend after missing out on the New Zealand Maori women's rugby league team which played in Australia last night.

Taradale will be one of six teams in the women's grade. Otane will play in the grade for the first time and Marist St Pats from Wellington will be the only side from out of the province in the grade which will also include two Hastings teams and one from Clive.