'I was eating 25,000 kilojoules a day': The mad world of Waratahs rookie Carlo Tizzano

Carlo Tizzano left his home state of Western Australia last year to take up a Waratahs contract, firm in the belief he could take the spot of incumbent Wallabies captain Michael Hooper.
Literally the only reason I came here is because I wanted to take his spot, Tizzano said.

Talk about aiming big.

Tizzanos unabashed ambition gives some insight to his character, but while he is making a name for himself at NSW this year as Hooper plays a sabbatical season in Japan, fully understanding the 21-year-old is not an easy task.

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Sipping a Coke Zero outside the teams meal room at their Daceyville headquarters, Tizzano, with a freshly shaved head, explained his mindset.

I could have stayed at home, been comfortable but I genuinely thought to myself I could have taken his spot last year, Tizzano told the Sydney Morning Herald ahead of Fridays clash against the Melbourne Rebels.

Its obviously shooting for the stars and thats never going to happen, but if I have that mindset, even if I dont do it, Im going to get somewhere close.

Was Hooper, a 105-test veteran, aware of the youngsters ploy?

I dont know, Tizzano said. Ill be honest, I dont think he really liked me. He didnt give me much. I learnt a few good lessons from him. It was so hard leaving home. I went into a spiral of depression. I was so sad but it was easily the best thing. Ive come out of it a better man.

Rookies rarely voice such aspirations, particularly in public. Tizzano is refreshingly candid.

It turned that the aggressive flanker did take the sky blue No 7 jersey this year, and while that may have come due to Hoopers stint in Japan, Tizzano has also become one of Waratahs few shining lights in a season that has seen three losses on the trot.

Tizzano has made 64 tackles from three matches, which is 18 more than the next person in Super Rugby AU.

His pre-game routine involves listening to Joe Rogan podcasts and watching videos of UFC champion Conor McGregor walking out before fights.

Even Tizzano admits hes a bit of a weird bloke who certainly wasnt the most liked figure when he arrived at the Waratahs because of his 100-miles-an-hour attitude. Tizzano makes no apologies for his brash approach.

A product of the Perth rugby system, Tizzano wanted to play senior rugby at age 16 to toughen himself up.

It was the best thing ever, Tizzano said. I was playing against these massive guys and then playing against these tiny guys who were still at school. I was like, Oh this is easy. Thats not to sound arrogant.

As a 17-year-old schoolboy, Tizzano was named the best pemain of the mens club competition in Perth premier rugby.

Jono Searle/Getty Images
Carlo Tizzano has been a rare bright point for the Waratahs in their winless start to the Super Rugby AU season.

The second youngest of four boys, Tizzano grew up with an angry streak, exacerbated by big brothers winding him up.

I had aggression problems when I was younger, Tizzano said. I just got angry real easy. My brother and his mates would bash me all the time, so I had to be pretty tough. Id get real pissed off. Im very chilled now but footy is my release. If I dont play or do any contact stuff, I get very agitated.

Mention Tizzanos name to enough people in rugby circles and they chuckle. They recall training punch-ups. Tizzano says Jason Gilmore didnt initially pick him for the Junior Wallabies because he got in too many fights.

Its no wonder that on days off, Tizzano likes getting in the ring. Boxing, MMA, wrestling you name it Tizzano loves combat in all its forms.

There was the famous scrap with NSW teammate Lachie Swinton a few years back in his first session that had to be broken up.

Even at the Melbourne Rebels, where Tizzano was invited to train during the pre-season of 2017, he refused to take a backwards step.

Angus Cottrell started wrestling me and I clocked him straight in the chin, Tizzano said. [Rebels assistant] Joe Barakat was loving it, he was screaming out, This kid has got balls. They pulled me in after and said, Mate, we love you, can you stay until round one of the Super Rugby season?

Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
Carlo Tizzano has made 64 tackles from three matches, which is 18 more than the next person in Super Rugby AU.

I thought if I fight people, I get picked. Later on I figured out that wasnt the way to go about it.

Tizzanos rise is all the more remarkable given that five years ago, he was a winger.

I hated sitting on the wing and not making tackles, Tizzano said. Id always get in trouble for shooting in and trying to smack people. The coach of our state WA team was like, Mate, Im not going to pick you if you keep doing this.

I said, Im going to go away, gym so hard, eat all these calories, Im going to come back and be jacked and Im going to be an openside flanker in six months time. The next year, Ill make the Australian schoolboys. He said that was never going to happen.

Six months later I was a No 7. I was eating 25,000 kilojoules a day. Thats a lot of food (about three times the average adult daily consumption). Id vomit sometimes. My mum is a dietician so she helped me out a bit but, mate, it was rough. I was eating every two hours. At school I looked like a gym junkie with all my meal prep.

Tizzano desperately wants a gold jersey.

Hooper and his Junior Wallabies captain from two years ago, Fraser McReight, might be ahead in the pecking order, but Tizzano doesnt like taking no for an answer.

Im playing to be in the Wallabies, Tizzano said. Im not just happy being in the squad, I want to be playing. Thats a big goal and some people might think thats ridiculous. I dont really care. I genuinely believe I can get there if I keep working hard.

Being from WA, youre always on the back foot and I sort of like that. Fraser McReight, for example, he got picked ahead of me in under-20s. I love that because it makes me want to work harder and harder and harder. My parents always taught me there are people ahead of you and youve got to strive to tick them off and keep going until youre the best and stay the best.

Gilly [Gilmore] said two years ago Fraser is our No 7. I said, OK, cool, I understand that ... but mate youre going to be picking me in this team, Im going to take his spot. I hung up.

If Im going hard at training, its making the other guys better. The Waratahs boys didnt really understand that at first. They just thought I was some weird kid from WA. Thats why me, Jake [Gordon] and Swints got in that scrap in my first session at Tahs.

As NSW assistant Chris Whitaker explained, Dave Porecki had to get up in front of the group to settle things down.

A lot of the boys were getting annoyed with Carlo because everything is always 100 per cent but Dave said, Dont blow up at Carlo, hes making us better, Whitaker said. Since Dave said that I think the intensity has lifted.

Sydney Morning Herald

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