Inspirational Wallabies hooker Nathan Charles says a run-on Test debut against the All Blacks would have only featured in his “wildest dreams” just nine months ago.
As if taking 28 tablets a day to manage his cystic fibrosis wasn’t enough, Charles had to fight just to start this year’s Super Rugby season after undergoing a knee reconstruction for a busted ACL last year.
But a stellar season at the Western Force, combined with knee injuries to Stephen Moore and Tatafu Polota-Nau, means Charles is the man most likely to don the No.2 jersey for the Bledisloe Cup opener in Sydney on August 16.
“Nine months ago, I was still coming back from a knee reconstruction. So this is my wildest dreams,” Charles said.
It won’t be Charles’ first time in the Green and Gold, however, as he claimed two Test caps off the bench against France back in June.
He admits that experience has helped steel the nerves ahead of the All Blacks showdown.
“The second time around, I’ve felt more comfortable with the guys, the patterns, and the plays,” Charles said.
One teammate Charles was already familiar with is prop Ben Alexander.
The duo know each other from their days at Sydney’s Knox Grammar School, where Charles was the ball-boy when Alexander was in the first XV.
“I used to be on the sideline, and with him being out on the wing quite a bit, I’d go `Benny get in tighter, do some work’,” Charles joked.
“But Benny has been great. As a young bloke, he treated you really well and nothing’s changed. He takes you under his wing.
“I couldn’t think of anyone better to have by your side in that cauldron.”
It’s a minor miracle that Charles will be packing down next to anyone at all, let alone on one of rugby’s biggest stages.
At three months of age, he was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis – a life-threatening genetic disease that primarily affects the lungs and digestive system – and his parents were told not to expect him to reach his 10th birthday.
While he’s the only known sufferer of the disease playing a professional contact sport, that’s not necessarily something he wants to be known for.
“But I guess it’s got to be something that you do embrace,” he said.
“Everyone’s got a barrier in life and how they overcome is what they should be judged by, rather than the actual condition or barrier they have.”
- David Barbeler, Roar