Nathan Charles aimed for a holiday, ended up back in Super Rugby

Nathan Charles aimed for a holiday, ended up back in Super Rugby

Nathan Charles has adapted to much greater things than a mid-season move to Melbourne.

The new Melbourne Rebels hooker wasn’t planning to ever play in Australia again after joining English club Bath.

Then the 29-year-old received a surprise call from the Rebels who desperately needed a hooker after Jordan Uelese went down with injury.

No European vacation for Nathan Charles.

No European vacation for Nathan Charles.Credit:AAP

Charles is the only known professional athlete in the world with cystic fibrosis, a condition that hits the lungs and digestive system increasing the chances of lung infections and often shortening a person’s life-span.


But Charles has never let his condition define his career and has proven a quick study taking up a similar short-term deal with French club Clermont in 2016 then moving onto Bath.

Charles planned to complete his Bath contract, due to expire this past Monday, and after three consecutive winters he was going to have a summer holiday.

Instead, he took the call from the Rebels and, with the support of Bath coach Todd Blackadder, quickly finalised the deal.

“Bath were not going to make the finals and Todd was extremely supportive of me coming back closer to my wife, Verity, and back into Super Rugby,” Charles said.

“It came out of the blue and was all sorted out over a three-hour period so I started packing up my life and heading over here.”

Charles picked up the Rebels’ line-out and scrum calls on the plane home to Australia and made his club debut in last weekend’s 55-10 loss to Christchurch Crusaders at AAMI Park.

“This is my job and what I love doing so I enjoy getting to know new roles and new details,” Charles said.

“So before I flew back I contacted Joe Barakat [Rebels forwards coach] and asked about the line-outs as I didn’t want to be rocking in on a short turnaround and have to learn them from scratch.”

Verity Charles is an accomplish player with West Coast Fever in Super Netball and the pair spent four months on different continents until Nathan met up with her before arriving in Melbourne.

Charles has long dealt with his condition and with some vigilance, medication and thermal training gear managed to play two seasons in the cold of Europe and loved his time there.

Melbourne's late autumn sun has felt like summer to Charles but he has quickly turned his attention to the ACT Brumbies in Canberra on Saturday night.

The Rebels have lost five-straight games but neither the Brumbies or New South Wales Waratahs have won enough games to knock them out of contention for the Australian conference title as they sit in second place, just four points behind the Waratahs.

It makes this weekend’s game the most important of Melbourne’s season as a win could take them back to top spot.

The Rebels are without injured Wallabies half-back Will Genia which leaves a big hole in their attack but they remain confident they can beat the Brumbies following a 33-10 win at AAMI Park in round two.

“You do place a large emphasis on derby games as a win is essentially a 10-point turnaround,” Charles said.

“It pushes you further away from the team you have just beaten, then they have to chase you and get some big results.

“With the talent the boys have in this squad they can push for greater levels and to be a part of that and hopefully push all the way to the finals would be great, it would be the first time I have been involved in Super Rugby finals and the first time for the Rebels.”

With Uelese injured and Tatafu Polota-Nau playing overseas, Australia’s hooker stocks are running low and Charles, who has four Wallaby caps, could come under the eye of national coach Michael Cheika, although Charles has yet to hear from the Wallabies.

The Rebels have three games then the Wallabies play three Tests against Ireland in June, the second test at AAMI Park is the same day Verity's Fever play Melbourne Vixens across the road at Hisense Arena.

“I was really upset with how my last Wallabies Test finished as I tore my pec muscle off the bone, that’s not the way you envisage your last game as a five-year old,” Charles said.

“If that opportunity comes around I’ll put my hand up but it’s not something I’ve thought about, first and foremost I’ve spent a lot of time away from my wife so I want to spent time with her.

“And I need to get some sun, so maybe Bali might be calling me.”

The Rebels play ACT Brumbies in Canberra on Saturday at 7.45pm.

Roy Ward is a Sports writer for The Age.

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