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What I learnt from Nathan Charles

Matt Toomua

Nathan Charles is the only professional athlete in the world to play a contact sport with Cystic Fibrosis. At 6 foot tall and an imposing muscular 104 kilo frame, many may not know the battles he faces as part of his daily life.


Cystic Fibrosis Australia defines CF as a recessive genetic condition that affects a number of organs in the body (especially the lungs and pancreas) and is life threatening and it is estimated more than a million people may carry the CF gene here in Australia. Today the life expectancy for Australian’s with CF is 48, while the survival rate for children has increased to 50%.


Despite his condition, Nathan remained disciplined and focused as he came through the ranks. He’s quite the athlete when you consider as a teen he also played both Rugby League in the SG Ball (under 18’s) team for the Canterbury Bulldogs while also playing Rugby Union.


He would choose to pursue Union and he has forged ahead in life, first starting at Sydney Uni and starring in a number of grand finals before continuing to develop and become a professional at the Western Force, enjoying 7 successful seasons, as well as making his International debut for the Wallabies.


I had the honour of hosting Nathan on the podcast and it was a pleasure to hear his story. Here are my key takeaways from Nathan that I feel will help you in your own journey, he has developed some solid habits and has a great deal of life experience.


Listen to the entire episode on the player below or continue for my key takeaways from the powerful chat.


“Success, I would love to get some Silver wear into the cabinet and be part of a team where I enjoy my Rugby and the type of Rugby I play compared to other hookers is very different. I thought the Rugby that Wasps play suits me down to a tee. So there’s a couple of factors, it’s all about where you feel you would fit in best”

This is interesting as this doesn’t just relate to sport but can be used in any profession. I think we sometimes put too much emphasis on money when there are more significant factors to consider.

Nathan Charles


“10 years ago I was thinking about me, whereas now I’m thinking about we. It’s about what we can achieve not what I can achieve. That comes naturally and I think about the team more often and what you can do to help team move forward and help any way you can”

Nathan has shown has tremendous growth and that reflects in his attitude from thinking as an individual first to now making the team a priority, something for everyone to consider.

Nathan Charles


“I always lived for a Friday afternoon. When I played Rugby League, then Super Rugby & League was on at night to watch as well. So I was glued to the TV or out there playing. I forged some really good friendships and that’s what’s it’s all about having fun with your mates”

It all begins with passion, its funny how successful we can be when we eat, breathe and sleep our passions. Have you moved away from pursing your passions, could be a major reason why you currently love or hate your job.


“I think going to Uni & Studying even though I did a broad degree made me think about what I wanted to do. Studying is quite an art with referencing, essay writing and researching. It’s not easy you have to be dedicated.Project Management I can see myself doing in the future and this has led me down this path. I’m doing a Masters and I’m enjoying doing this course. With online learning you have to be very dedicated, routine is crucial. Once you’re into it, you get a routine set and it becomes easy. It’s not difficult to balance once you got that happening. I still go out with the boys, train and get on top of it. It’s about finding the time and being dedicated to it. Study is a great chance to get away and whether it’s been a good or bad day, it can take your mind off it. I’m about balance and well being. It’s important to have really good balance in life and I think when you’re happy, your family is happy and that gives you more chance of being successful especially if you enjoy it. I make sure I tick the boxes on and off the field”

I love speaking to athletes who have made serious inroads into life after sport, while playing sport. Sport can change at a blink of an eye and I think this is different from having a plan B, as you only have a small life in professional sport. The successful athletes I interview all have some great projects and self developments they pursue away from the field but it doesn’t have to be only for athletes, having a side hobby/business and continuing your education will only help you evolve and find balance across your life.

Nathan Charles


“Being brought up with that condition, I’ve developed a thick skin to adversity and how to overcome this stuff. I got a very hard working attitude; you got to work hard to get what you want in life. To be honest I’d to love to do some motivational or leadership talking and speaking about my experience with my condition growing up and being the only professional player to play a contact sport with Cystic Fibrosis. I think I can help people not only by raising awareness for CF around the world but also be a symbol of hope not only for people with CF but also people struggling with adversity. That’s what I like to see my message as not only for people with CF but people facing challenges and help people overcome challenges when adversity is in your face, not to sit down but stand up and take it head on and overcome that. I think people should be defined not how they can be put down but how they get back up”

While he has a responsibility as a National Ambassador for Cystic Fibrosis, it’s great to see to him take the path of trying to inspire everyone with his story. Adversity happens for all with us but another great reminder of taking challenges on head first and continuing to push ahead when sometimes life feels tough.

Nathan Charles


“Verity is amazing, so supportive, being a professional athlete herself she understands the pressures what comes with games, injuries & performances. With her having diabetes and having to deal with something, it’s not like we compare notes. But she has something she deals with and I have something I deal with, you respect that, you understand it and support each other the best way you can. She’s amazing and I’m very lucky to be married to her”

Show's the influence that a great inner circle can have on success. Choose your circle wisely and that means both relying on others and you also being there for others when they need you.

Nathan Charles


“You have some dark days. I did my knee in 2013 and had a knee reconstruction. It was my first major injury. That was easier to deal with even with a period out. I had very good support around me. The motivation to get back and get back stronger. Just after my injury I got told I was close to a Wallabies call up, so that was a driving factor and I made the Wallabies Squad the following year. In one of those Wallabies games I tore my pec off the bone against the All Blacks and that was the hardest. I was in my prime and playing some very good Rugby and it got torn away and I haven’t got back there. It was extremely tough, I remember tearing it off and I knew something wasn’t right and played on 5 minutes until I couldn’t move my arm. Walking up the change room I can remember it so vividly, I walked in and I sat in front of my locker and cried not because of the pain but because of where I was. It was literally torn away from me. It was extremely heart breaking even today it’s hard to accept but that comes with the sport and you move on. I ended up doing myself a disservice coming back to quick and not playing that well. I had a shoulder reconstruction last year so I thought it was time for a fresh start and so Europe it was, I just want to get back to enjoying Rugby like back in the day”

A dark period of time for Nathan, but as he points out earlier in the piece, what defines you is the ability to bounce back up when you’ve been knocked down.

Nathan Charles


“I’m a big fan of New Zealand Rugby, the way they go about stuff, the way they treat other players. They got it right and it reflects in their performances. I think the humility of the players is second to none. The first test I started against them it was a 12 all draw and it was such a weird feeling because it felt like we done enough to beat them and just couldn’t get across the line. I remember Kevin Mealamu. I was down on the ground and Kevin came over and gave me a hand up and said you’ve played so well and earnt your spot here and we will be seeing more of you. To think that was just after such a tough test match that really stood out for me. Even their coach Steve Hansen came up after the game and congratulated me. The respect of the players, they see Rugby for what it is and they enjoying playing, putting in the graft but after that they enjoy themselves and the opposition. Rugby is about enjoyment and playing with our mates and they have a really good balance, they’re a great team for a reason”

Everyone is always looking for the All Blacks secret to success and I think Nathan has just shown us how their success is built off their culture which includes simple acts of kindness, empathy and support. Sometimes we look for the big play when it’s the simple things that are the key ingredients.



“Nathan Sharpe was a very good leader, he had a great relationship with players. He was someone for the boys, you could talk to him honestly and he would give you an honest answer back. Whether you’re right or wrong, he would also reason with you. I was a hooker throwing him the ball in the line out and if I would want to try this or that he would work with you, but when it came time to put his foot down he knew the right times. Building good rapore, good relationships and good communication that’s what I’ve got out of good leaders like Nathan”

I was very lucky to also have Sharpey on the show earlier this year and even though it was our first meeting you could definitely sense he was a guy’s guy and really cared for his teammates.

Nathan’s inspirational story has only just begun, while he has a condition that he manages he has never let that define him and I love the way he chooses to inspire everyone not just people with CF. I can vision Nathan continuing to develop post football in both business and public speaking. He has an incredible story so I encourage you to share it with your family and friends.

Be sure to follow and support Nathan along his journey:




Also be sure to support Cystic Fibrosis Australia -


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