By Guy Williams, Date: 9/4/13
AVIGNON Bisons enforcer Aaron Wood is now a damaging, skilful backrower.
But, that almost wasn’t the case.
Instead of breaking tackles and creating opportunities with deft passes, he could’ve found himself on the flanks as a finisher.
Wood, who hails from Sydney, New South Wales, kicked-off his top-level rugby league career at the St George-Illawarra Dragons in the Jersey Flegg competition in a very different position.
“At St George I started on the wing and ended up finishing in the back row,” the now-107kg lock said.
“I turned up at the trials there and I was a spring bean so they put me on the wing, but by the end of the season I was playing lock, front row – I was playing everywhere.”
Nowadays, Wood dons the number 13 jersey for the Bisons on a weekly basis in the 2012-13 French Federation of Rugby League’s Elite One competition.
The Bisons host the in-form Toulouse Olympique in a knockout semi-final on Saturday afternoon.
Following the departure of a brace of Australians from the club after Avignon’s semi-final reaching performance last season, Wood admits he wasn’t certain how the team would perform in 2012-13, but was pleased with the side when FrenchFooty caught up with him earlier in the season.
“The first two games I was a bit worried. We got beaten by nearly 30 against Lezignan (32-8) and by more than 30 against Pia (46-12), but then it changed,” he said.
“I think we’ll be a bit of a surprise packet this season if we can keep the momentum going.
“We’re a team that if you don’t turn up and give 100%, then we’ll get you. If you slacken off a bit we’ll take the opportunity.”
After playing a role in Parramatta Eels’ three straight Premier League premierships from 2005-2007, Woods has an abundance of experience.
He was 18th man for the Eels 31-12 win over the Sydney Roosters in 2005, but made the most of his opportunities during the following two seasons starring for the Eels in their 2006 and 2007 grand final wins.
And, that’s where his career in Australia ended.
“I started here (in France) in October ’07,” he explained.
“I flew out the week after the grand final – (a week later and) I was still on Mad Monday.”
He packed his bags and left for Limoux, France, and brought an ounce of that success with him.
He won the French Cup in 2007-2008 with Limoux Grizzlies and played in consecutive championship finals in 2007-2008 and 2008-2009.
He believes it’s now time to share the experience gained during those successful years with the younger players at Avignon.
“I’ve really started to realise that I’m getting older now so I’ve got to set an example for the young fellas,” the 28-year-old said.
“I’m getting it into my head now that I’m not a young fella and I’ve got to start passing on some knowledge to the young guys here.”
While at the Eels and initially in France Woods was noted as a front rower, he’s now found his place at the pack of the pack.
“I’m ball-playing a bit more than I did last year,” he said.
“I don’t mind it. I have to do a bit more work. But, it keeps me fit, it keeps me busy.”
In the other semi-final Lezignan host reigning premiers Carcassonne.
FrenchFooty.com.au is the place to discover everything about the French Federation of Rugby League’s Elite Championship competition. You’ll uncover the latest news on the non-French players who are plying their trade in the south of France. And, it’s all in English!