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The Emirates Western Force is looking forward to rolling out a bigger, stronger Nathan Charles for the 2013 Super Rugby season.
The Western Australian rake was the only player to start in every match for the Emirates Western Force last season and has set about putting on weight over the next three months.
Charles built additional gym sessions and a hefty diet into his busy pre-season schedule with a view to putting an additional three kilograms onto his frame by the time the season kicks off against the Rebels in Melbourne on Friday, 15 February.
“Last year I probably started a bit under and I found it challenging to maintain bodyweight week in, week out,” Charles said.
“I sat down with [Head Strength & Conditioning Coach] Charlie [Higgins] and the S&C boys at the beginning of the pre-season and identified the weight I wanted to play at.
“Anyone can put on weight but it’s the sort of weight you put on. I want be at 105kg ‘fighting weight’ and I want it to make a difference on field, not just additional weight I have to lug around.
“I believe mobility and agility are strengths of my game and I want to be able to keep that but add a little bit more which may help with tackle busts or dominant tackles and at scrum time.”
While Charles’ training program has predominantly focused on weight-gain, his fitness remains up to scratch after topping early pre-season testing for the forwards.
Sticking by his mantra of ‘you can never be fit enough’, the 23-year-old front-rower is hoping that his beefed up frame will contribute to realising a dream of making his Test debut for Australia.
Many believe Charles, who was crowned The Whole Force supporter site’s 2012 Player of the Year, was unfortunate to be overlooked for higher representative honours in 2013 despite being called in for Wallaby training camps throughout the year.
However, the man himself is philosophical about a possible Test call-up, admitting there are still a few areas of his game he’d like to hone despite having been a consistent contributor for the Emirates Western Force.
“If I wasn’t disappointed [about not making the Wallabies’ squad] then I wouldn’t care enough,” he said. “The thing is I’m probably not quite where I need to be just yet so I need to keep working.
“Guys like Tatafu [Polota-Nau] and Stephen Moore are still setting the benchmark and I need to keep working hard to play at their level consistently.
“I’d rather get to that level and hit the ground running [for the Wallabies] rather than get there and be halted in my footsteps.”
Charles admits that he has renewed enthusiasm about the season ahead following the introduction of a “new and hungry backline” and the appointment of Michael Foley as Head Coach.
“Everyone knows whether it’s rugby, politics or whatever, front-rowers should rule the world, so to have a hooker at the helm makes sense,” he joked.
“But having a specialised hooker on the coaching staff is really exciting and it’s fantastic to have him aligned with Stilesy [Forwards Coach Nick Stiles] who did an excellent job with us last year. It’s great having coaches who know what it takes to compete at the highest level and I’ll be doing everything I can to soak up as much information from them as possible.”
Despite steering away from any unnecessary, weight-stripping cardiovascular exercise, Charles will make an exception this weekend when he takes part in the Great Strides Walkathon in Wembley, raising funds and awareness for the Cystic Fibrosis Association.
Charles, who was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at the age of three months, is the only professional contact sport athlete with the disease in the world and has urged everyone to take part in the fundraiser for a cause he knows all too well.
“The Great Strides Walkathon is always a great day out. Everyone dresses up in red and walks around Lake Monger and raises much-needed funds for the Cystic Fibrosis Association,” he said. “It’s a great day for everyone whether you’re affected directly or indirectly or whether you just want to get out and walk around.
“I believe exercise is the best medicine for CF and it’d be great to see as many people down there as possible.”
For details or to register for the Great Strides Walkathon, visit http://www.greatstrideswa.org.au/event/greatstrideswa2012