Date: December 23 2012
FOUR months ago Dale Stevenson tipped the scales at 138 kilograms when he threw the shot put for Australia at the London Olympics. Now, after whittling 20 kilograms from his powerful frame, he's determined to make his mark as a prop for the Melbourne Rebels.
Stevenson didn't make the Olympic final and switched to rugby on his return after he became disillusioned with aspects of athletics.
He admitted that, while his experience in the 15-man game was restricted to a few matches in the English high school system, he was braced for what he called ''an adventure''.
''I'm enjoying the challenge. It's not easy but I didn't expect it to be,'' the 24-year-old said. ''The big thing over the past few months was getting myself into shape so I can handle a full-time training load and get around the park.
''I fell in love with the game when I went to school in England but on my return to Melbourne in 2001 there weren't many avenues for rugby so I went down the AFL path before I found athletics.''
The strongman, who'll find his footy feet through the Rebels' academy and the Melbourne Harlequins, will definitely add some muscle to the scrum. Despite losing some of his pure strength and power with the weight, his figures in the gym suggested he laid claim to being the strongest man in any of Australia's football codes.
''There was a 220-kilogram bench press, a 290-kilogram squat and a 185-kilogram clean [lift],'' he said. ''While the numbers were down on what I've done in the past, I was reasonably happy they didn't fall off as far as I thought they might have.''
He was not overly concerned about the combative side of the sport.
''That was raised when I initially spoke to the Rebels and they wanted to know if I could handle the physicality of it and not only hold my own but actually win some contests,'' he said. ''Over the past few months we've done grappling, wrestling and scrummaging and I've taken to it better than was originally forecast. I know it's different from a game situation but it is nice to know.''
While Stevenson said he was a long way from thinking about playing for the Wallabies, another former shot putter, Tom Court, proved it was possible to succeed. After switching to rugby in 2004, Court represented Queensland and Ireland as a front-rower.
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