One more match. It will be Luke Woodcock's 144th and final first-class appearance in the Wellington Firebirds jersey and, fittingly, it will be at his home ground, the Basin Reserve from this Sunday.
The 36-year-old Firebirds legend announced the decision to his teammates following their Plunket Shield match against the Otago Volts on Tuesday, calling time on a record-breaking representative career that has spanned 17 seasons.
No one has played more first-class matches for the Firebirds than "Woody" with fellow long-serving and loyal teammate Jeetan Patel the nearest to his mark, some nine matches behind.
Woodcock has also pulled on the Firebirds jersey 125 times in The Ford Trophy and 105 times in Burger King Super Smash, a Wellington appearances record and exceeding nationally only by Canterbury King Andrew Ellis.
Said Woodcock, “It just feels right at this stage to move on. You always get told that you’ll know when things are coming to an end and, in all honesty, I never really believed that. But over the last six to nine months things have started to kick in around that final stage of my career, and the decision not to play in The Ford Trophy this year was probably a sign it was time to call it a day.”
Known in Wellington cricketing circles as the 'Mayor of Johnsonville', Woodcock began his cricket at the Johnsonville Cricket Club where he still holds the club runs (6,334) and century (11) records. He made his debut for the Firebirds in 2001 at the age of 19 and has racked up 384 appearances across all three formats, scoring 10,594 runs and taking 339 wickets.
Woodcock won the Plunket Shield in 2004, The Ford Trophy in 2014 and lifted New Zealand's T20 trophy in 2015 and 2017. He also represented the BLACKCAPS in a T20i against Pakistan in 2010 and went on to play four ODIs and three T20is for New Zealand, earning selection in the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup squad.
It will be his influence on Wellington cricket that leaves the biggest impact, and Woodcock says to have represented the team more than 100 times in all three formats is something of which he is "really proud".
“Cricket Wellington means a lot to me and has been a big part of my life for the last 17 years. I can’t thank them and the Johnsonville Cricket Club enough for helping me have the career that I’ve had.”
Outgoing Firebirds head coach Bruce Edgar said Woodcock has had an influence on all levels of cricket in Wellington.
“He’s always been committed and passionate to play club cricket, and be part of the community, and he has represented our values strongly. He’s been a great giver to other people. A lot of players have really looked up to him as a person and as a player, so he’s really epitomised everything we stand for.”
Fellow Firebirds great Jeetan Patel acknowledged Woodcock’s presence within the team environment. “The one thing with Woody is he just wants to contribute, he really just wants to put something in for a team result. Woody’s such a huge presence in our changing room, he connects really well with the younger guys and has a good connection with the older guys and I don’t think you can ever fully replace a character like that.
“As a cricketer he’s just been Luke Woodcock, he’s never been anyone else but himself and that’s quite special because he’s always had the abilities he’s got now, and he’s just enhanced it as he’s understood more and more about the game.”
Woodcock's longtime opening partner Michael Papps (above) retired last season, and Woodcock admitted he’d miss the feeling of winning games of cricket with his mates.
“Winning four-day matches is extremely difficult, so it’s a pretty satisfying winning those. I’ll miss the banter too – I’ve copped a bit and given a bit in my time!”
Woodcock has four more days in which to add to his 7,811 first-class runs in his career, and 141 wickets. He will make his final appearance for the Firebirds from 10.30am this Sunday (weather permitting) against Canterbury in their final Plunket Shield match of the summer at the Basin Reserve. Admission to all Plunket Shield cricket is free.