Joe Moody credits his wrestling background with providing him with the requisite mental strength for top rugby and he will need all of that determination this season as he battles back from ankle surgery.

Moody, famously, seriously injured an ankle when playing for Canterbury in the ITM Cup the day before the All Black squad for the November tour was announced. He would have made it. Instead, he had to watch as Jeffery Toomaga-Allen was taken instead and reconcile himself to a long layoff.

Now the big 25-year-old prop is hoping for a mid-March comeback for the Crusaders. He needs another operation to remove screws from the joint and then more hard work is in store - to not only get himself into condition but also somehow dislodge Wyatt Crockett for the No1jersey.

The ankle still troubles him on occasion and his fitness work has been limited to the gym and stationary bike. He is fortunate to have had a background in an individual sport such as wrestling as he battles away on his rehabilitation.


"I started wrestling when I was 7 or 8 and I did it until I was about 21," he said. "I won my first national senior title when I was about 16 and I ended up winning quite a few national titles.

"You can take certain aspects out of it as far as cleanouts and that sort of carry-on but the main thing it really helped with was having that individual sport behind you where there's no one else to rely on.

"It's just you. That's really given me the determination and drive in my training and where I want to go."

As a kid growing up in North Canterbury, Moody had more than his share of energy to burn.

"I was a bit of a naughty little kid and my parents took me along to get me to vent things out on the wrestling mat rather than taking things out at school."

With players such as Crockett, Corey Flynn, Ben Funnell, Codie Taylor, Nepo Laulala, Tim Perry and Owen Franks as options for the front row, the Crusaders will again have a major advantage in this area. As a specialist loosehead, Moody has Crockett as his main rival.

The Crusaders did away with their prop rotation policy once Ben Franks left for the Hurricanes, and it paid dividends in terms of performance and motivation for Crockett and Co. Moody, however, who played 16 matches last year in his first season with the Crusaders, will be expected to keep Crockett honest.

His fitness is a work in progress, Moody admitting that not being able to run wasn't doing him any favours.

"Generally my fitness has never been that flash. With not being able to do any running - I have only been able to do spin bike sessions to do my cardio - I'm a little bit worried where I'm going to be when I start doing things again."

Being able to get his hands on an All Black jersey after going so close last year was a burning motivation.

"I've been on a couple of training camps. That and being named [in the All Blacks], that's all motivation I can put in the bank to work harder and try to get back out on the pitch."