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The general . . . Kurow second five-eighth Ben Nowell runs play during the Citizens Shield game between Kurow and Athletic Marist at Whitestone Contracting Stadium earlier this season. Athletic defenders are Taina Tamou (left) and Kasanova Soane. PHOTO: TIM MEEHAN

Ben Nowell is in his happy place – playing great rugby, farming up the Waitaki Valley, and enjoying being a husband and father to three energetic young boys.

What’s not to like about life?

All Nowell needs now is a Citizens Shield in the Kurow trophy cabinet.

The classy five-eighth is back pulling the strings for a very good Kurow team after taking a year off rugby.

The feeling was that he was done, that the rugby boots were being put away and the gumboots would be on permanent duty, but Nowell decided 32 was too young to be retired.

“I got the old itch to play again and here I am,” he said.

“I’m loving rugby as much as I ever have. I’m enjoying life away from rugby, and enjoying playing the game.”

Few players in the North Otago competition have as impressive a rugby resume.

After starring in the Otago Boys’ High School First XV, Nowell headed to Lincoln University.

He made his Canterbury debut at 19 and was a regular in the NPC squad for three years, made the Crusaders wider squad and earned a call-up to the New Zealand sevens team.

Two years of rugby in Japan followed, after which Nowell went farming near Outram.

The arrangement was he would limit his rugby to club outings, and he duly helped Taieri win back-to-back Dunedin premier banners.

“I just enjoyed farming more at the time, and realised that was the career path I wanted to follow.”

Nowell has no regrets when he reflects on his rugby career.

“I decided to go overseas at a young age, partly so I could get ahead when it came to farming, and I’m rapt with what I got to do.”

He and wife Emma have bought into the home farm near Kurow, a great place for their sons (aged 5, 3 and 1) to grow up.

It is also the rugby heartland, and Nowell is enjoying the buzz that has developed around the club.

“There’s been a good feeling for probably the last three or four years, really, and it’s just building all the time.

“Lots of players are getting involved, for both the premier and the president’s grade team. You need depth to get through a whole rugby season, and when you get those numbers, it does create a bit of a buzz around the place.

“Heaps of guys are turning up to training and to the games, and we’re all just enjoying each other’s company.”

Kurow has not won the Citizens Shield since 1982, and the club will need to find a way past a formidable Old Boys side if it is to do that.

Nowell sees no reason why the men in red should not be dreaming of glory.

“We’re playing to win it. That’s our main goal this year.

“We’ll have lots of fun but our job is to win the competition.”

Nowell’s remaining rugby ambitions will be limited to club level, as he will not be making himself available for Heartland Championship selection.