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Rebels put faith in Olympian


Stathi Paxinos

A shot at the big time: Dale Stevenson in training with the Melbourne Rebels.

A shot at the big time: Dale Stevenson in training with the Melbourne Rebels. Photo: Joe Armao

DALE Stevenson yesterday had the official first day of his new sporting life. Less than three months ago, Stevenson was lining up at the Olympic Stadium in London for the shot put competition. Now he has ambitions of one day packing down in the front row of the Melbourne Rebels scrum.

Stevenson, whose experience in rugby union has been limited to a few junior games, has been recruited by the Rebels in their academy system as a long-term prospect.

The 24-year-old is being groomed as a tight-head prop but faces a controlled progression through the lower grades for several years, where it is hoped he will develop into a contracted Super Rugby player.

Stevenson and Rebels officials such as list manager Sam Cordingley acknowledge the long path ahead but the club has high hopes for the powerhouse.

Stevenson, who weighed 138 kilograms when competing in London, has been working with conditioning staff and is down to 124 kilograms after stripping four kilograms in the past two weeks.

He has a target of 118 kilograms to 120 kilograms and yesterday completed his first team training session with the Rebels, a weights session where he impressed the more hardened players looking on. ''He's much stronger than the rest of us,'' said front-rower Laurie Weeks.

After a decade in athletics, Stevenson, who failed to make the shot put final in his first Olympics, decided to switch careers after becoming disillusioned with aspects of the sport.

''The reason I got into athletics is because I enjoyed the challenge,'' said Stevenson, an avid practitioner of yoga and meditation.

''Obviously, being an individual sport … you [are] largely self-directed and that always appealed to me … the flip side to that is it can get lonely at times.

''I found that I basically got to the point where the joy I was getting out of the sport was outweighed by the negatives, whether that be the politics of the sport or the administration of the sport or just the loneliness and the solo nature of the sport.

''As soon as it stopped becoming fun it was too much hard work. I've got some athletic talent and I still have a passion to be involved in competitive sport.

''I've always loved team sports and my build predisposes me to rugby. I have some experience in playing and still follow the game avidly and appreciate the beauty of the game and I thought, when you're young enough to do these things, why not?''

However, Stevenson - whose junior sporting claim to fame came in football when, as a teenage full-forward, he kicked 100 goals in four successive seasons for Somerville on the Mornington Peninsula - said he was realistic in his expectations about the conversion.

''It's a huge challenge [but] I think that's essentially what defines us as people and certainly as athletes … how you respond to a challenge and for me I welcome the challenge with open arms,'' Stevenson said.

''I'm looking to enjoy the process and better myself and see if I can improve … if I end up playing second-grade rugby at club level in Victoria, I'm not going to be disappointed. I can live with myself, as long as I give it a crack and give it my best … I'll be able to sleep at night.''

He said he was not worried about the technical intricacies of playing one of the hardest positions on the ground.

''Technical understanding and development is the background that I've come from and I'll back myself to develop technically,'' he said.

''What is going to take me time is the aerobic conditioning and the pace of the game, and tight-head's probably a better spot to slot in with regards to that.''

There is a precedent. Tom Court was a shot putter who switched to rugby union in 2004 and has played for Queensland and Ireland as a front-rower.

Cordingley, who played with Court at the Reds, said he was confident Stevenson could follow suit.

''He's going to be involved in our academy program and junior development work and we're hoping to fast-track his development based on his athleticism,'' Cordingley said.

''We're talking about an Olympic-level athlete who's willing to basically give up his opportunity to continue in that sport … [and] all of the signs are pointing towards a guy who is clearly ambitious about making the transition and it's a credit to him.''

HuffPost Australia

Rugby World Cup 2015

Round 1
Sat, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
ENG 35vs FJI 11 Report Stats
TGA 10vs GEO 17 Report Stats
IRE 50vs CAN 7 Report Stats
Sun, 20 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 32vs JPN 34 Report Stats
FRA 32vs ITA 10 Report Stats
SAM 25vs USA 16 Report Stats
WAL 54vs URU 9 Report Stats
Mon, 21 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 26vs ARG 16 Report Stats
Wed, 23 SepTimes shown AEST
SCO 45vs JPN 10 Report Stats
Thu, 24 SepTimes shown AEST
AUS 28vs FJI 13 Report Stats
FRA 38vs ROM 11 Report Stats
Fri, 25 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 58vs NAM 14 Report Stats
Sat, 26 SepTimes shown AEST
ARG 54vs GEO 9 Report Stats
ITA 23vs CAN 18 Report Stats
Sun, 27 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 46vs SAM 6 Report Stats
ENG 25vs WAL 28 Report Stats
AUS 65vs URU 3 Report Stats
SCO 39vs USA 16 Report Stats
Mon, 28 SepTimes shown AEST
IRE 44vs ROM 10 Report Stats
Wed, 30 SepTimes shown AEST
TGA 35vs NAM 21 Report Stats
Fri, 02 OctTimes shown AEST
WAL 23vs FJI 13 Report Stats
FRA 41vs CAN 18 Report Stats
Sat, 03 OctTimes shown AEST
NZL 43vs GEO 10 Report Stats
SAM 5vs JPN 26 Report Stats
Sun, 04 OctTimes shown AEST
SAF 34vs SCO 16 Report Stats
ENG 13vs AUS 33 Report Stats
Mon, 05 OctTimes shown AEDT
ARG 45vs TGA 16 Report Stats
IRE 16vs ITA 9 Report Stats
Wed, 07 OctTimes shown AEDT
CAN 15vs ROM 17 Report Stats
FJI 47vs URU 15 Report Stats
Thu, 08 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 64vs USA 0 Report Stats
NAM 16vs GEO 17 Stats
Sat, 10 OctTimes shown AEDT
NZL 47vs TGA 9 Report Stats
Sun, 11 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAM 33vs SCO 36 Report Stats
AUS 15vs WAL 6 Report Stats
ENG 60vs URU 3 Stats
ARG 64vs NAM 19 Report Stats
Mon, 12 OctTimes shown AEDT
ITA 32vs ROM 22 Report Stats
FRA 9vs IRE 24 Report Stats
USA 18vs JPN 28 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Sun, 18 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 0vs WAL 0 02:00Twic
NZL 0vs FRA 0 06:00MilS
IRE 0vs ARG 0 23:00MilS
Mon, 19 OctTimes shown AEDT
AUS 0vs SCO 0 02:00Twic
Sun, 25 OctTimes shown AEDT
WQF1 0vs WQF2 0 02:00Twic
Mon, 26 OctTimes shown AEDT
WQF3 0vs WQF4 0 03:00Twic
Sat, 31 OctTimes shown AEDT
LSF1 0vs LSF2 0 07:00The Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Sun, 01 NovTimes shown AEDT
WSF1 0vs WSF2 0 03:00Twic
View All Fixtures
Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Australia 4 4 0 0 106 17
Wales 4 3 1 0 49 13
England 4 2 2 0 58 11
Fiji 4 1 3 0 -17 5
Uruguay 4 0 4 0 -196 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
South Africa 4 3 1 0 120 16
Scotland 4 3 1 0 43 14
Japan 4 3 1 0 -2 12
Samoa 4 1 3 0 -55 6
USA 4 0 4 0 -106 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
New Zealand 4 4 0 0 125 19
Argentina 4 3 1 0 109 15
Georgia 4 2 2 0 -70 8
Tonga 4 1 3 0 -60 6
Namibia 4 0 4 0 -104 1
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Ireland 4 4 0 0 99 18
France 4 3 1 0 57 14
Italy 4 2 2 0 -14 10
Romania 4 1 3 0 -69 4
Canada 4 0 4 0 -73 2
View all

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