The story behind Nau Paraone Anthony Cherrington

Anthony Cherington
Photo Credit: Getty Images/Cover Art

Anthony Cherrington has quite the astonishing Rugby League and life story to tell. In just 24 brutal NRL matches he featured for both the Sydney Roosters and then eight long, painful years later he returned to do it all again for the South Sydney Rabbitohs. In total it was a shocking 2812-day absence from the League, unfortunately, highlighted by his total of three knee reconstructions during that time. Not to mention he was also a part of the Kiwis 2008 Rugby League World Cup squad, whilst he’s also been a strong feature in both the NSW Cup and the Group 6 Rugby League competition. Currently, he is a proud father and one who successfully co-runs an awesome, winning gym called Against The Grain Hq. There are so many interesting stories and things to unravel from the career and life of the man affectionately nick named ‘Chez’. This is just one small bit of his lifelong journey.

Q: Anthony when you finally returned after all that time away from the game, to play for Souths against North Queensland, was there a sense of relief at all? And were you ever worried about the possibility of injuring or re-injuring yourself?

A: “I’ll be honest with you, I trained that whole year being injured. My knees were torn and given how bulky I was, they were unable to carry it. I was on anti-inflammatories every day to the point where I couldn’t actually feel from my hip downwards. It sounds bad, but that’s just what I had to endure to get a game.”

“I remember the swell of emotions just took over me and all the boys in the back were revving me up like let’s go Chez and congratulations, etc. When I walked on, I had tears in my eyes, it was something that I was striving to get back to for so long. And then to actually be able to do it, you feel unstoppable. It got to the point where my body was just shutting down and I couldn’t move because I was running and tackling as hard as I could. But at the end of the day, I had spent eight years of my life trying to get back to this stage and I was just like f*ck good on you bro, you’re a mad c*nt.”

Q: You had a long layoff from playing NRL Footy in-between your stints at both the Roosters and the Rabbitohs. During that time, you three knee reconstructions. What was the mental toll that those injuries had on you?

A: “I was still working on a relationship with one of my then girlfriends and we just had our first two children during those two years of injury. So, a lot of my attention was obviously not even on Football, it was on my kids. That being said I was pretty disappointed and distraught. I had a good two years in 2008-09. 2010 Was supposed to be the year that I paved my way to some sort of Rugby League greatness and then the injuries hit me, and I was forced to be on the sidelines for 2-3 years.”

Q: Now to a bit more about what you achieved on the field. During your first year in the NRL you were named in the New Zealand training squad for the 2008 Rugby League World Cup. What was that like? And did it feel good to know that even as a rookie you were still capable of competing with the best?

A: “My Grandfather was an All Black, to be asked to play for the Kiwis, was not quite the All Blacks, but pretty much the next best thing when it comes to Rugby League. It was an honour for me and even going into the camp and meeting a lot of the older guys it was still pretty daunting. In some ways, it made it very intimidating for me. It was so cool for a 19 or 20-year-old to be asked to play on the biggest stage, even though I didn’t end up playing.”

Q: In just your first season in the NRL, the Roosters finished inside the Top 4. What was that season like for you? And what was it like being able to play with established veterans such as Anthony Minichello and Craig Fitzgibbon?

A: “Do you know how cool that is? They were the best players in the world at that time. To train and play around that type of calibre was awesome. Even knowing personally that you can keep up with the best was huge. That first season that I played it was just so much fun. We played a semi-final against the Broncos at the SFS. And that was dead set the hardest game I’ve ever played in my life. We lost that game and then we went to the Warriors game over in Auckland. And there was that big tackle where Ruben Wiki knocked out Sio Soliola. That game there was the turning-point. It was one of the best experiences that I’ve ever had, I’ll never forget it.”

Q: In just your second season in the League in 2009, the Roosters won just 5 games out of a possible 24. Was that damaging to you at all as a rookie, or did you just view it as a part of the tough learning process of playing in the NRL?

A: “I was happy to be a full-time NRL player. Wins, losses, or bad seasons wasn’t too much for me. I wasn’t really mentally mature when it came to that, I was just learning. And that year although it was relatively hard for the club, it didn’t bother me. I was just proud to still be playing in the NRL.”

Q: More on the Roosters, as you represented both them and the Rabbitohs. Did you ever feel any heat from any of the Eastern Suburbs supporters?

A: “Not really. You’ve got to remember it was eight years since the last time I played. In some ways, I was still sort of a rookie player. It felt like I was debuting again. And then playing again all my intensity and focus was on playing the best Footy that I could for South Sydney even though it was for a shorter period of time. It was still a dream come true. To play again was like every boy’s dream. Hopefully one day I get to write a book about it, because it does take a lot of resilience to do that sort of stuff I felt. And just playing again was awesome. To be honest I didn’t really give two shi*s about any of the fans. It was good for me.”

Q: Other than the NRL, you’ve plied your trade-in some pretty tough Footy competitions, those including both the NSW Cup and the Group 6 Rugby League Competition. How do they compare to playing in the NRL? And are the hits just as hard?

A: “NSW Cup in terms of your systems and the way the game was played was very similar to NRL. The structure and even the way that players moved and shifted around the field was just like that of professional Footy. There was a lot of guys coming to try and take NRL players heads of, which was guys like myself. And then there was a lot of opportunities for you to be the player that you were meant to, to play open and free Footy. That’s where I strive. Then to go back to NRL then back to Group 6 or 7 it was tough. You did your own strapping, half the guys brought their own gear and you gotta get your own jersey and all of that sort of stuff. And it’s always big hits.”

Q: When we were previously talking, you mentioned that you weren’t very connected to the game anymore. Why is that?

A: “It’s a hard one. After I left the Roosters, I actually saw it from a different point of view and started growing up. I saw that Football is still a business. I’d been there since I was 12 years old and I can’t even remember the day that I left the club, and I was very disappointed about that. That’s where I got sort of a cold shoulder towards Rugby League. Stopped being a fan, stopped watching it and stopped enjoying talking about it. I left Sydney and I went up and played for Redcliffe and I got to experience what I used to experience as a youngin, enjoying weekends of playing Footy. Not so much about being in the spotlight, more about going there every weekend and playing hard Footy with your mates. The only games that I watch per year would be the State of Origin and maybe a couple of test matches, I don’t even watch week-to-week Footy. But if you asked me to break down the game, I could do it for you left, right and centre. In terms of what’s going on in the Footy, or the news or anything like that, I don’t have a clue. I just stick to my lane, so to speak.”

Q: Now to life after the NRL. What is Against the Grain HQ? What do you try to help your clients achieve? And how did you get into the training business?

A: “Against the Grain is pretty much what the name is. Our training philosophy and the way that we speak about training is very different. The only way that somebody would be able to experience it is by coming through our doors or even seeing ourselves on Instagram. What we do actually stems away from training and is all about mindset. So, everything that I’ve learnt during my career and everything that my business partner has learnt during his life we take that on board into our business. Our business is built around more so understanding humans and being able to talk about our deep, dark secrets and being able to use that and capitalise on that to train hard.”

“When I was in a full-time squad and the environment that we used to have no one could match it. I’d go into these gyms and be like f*ck why can’t these people train the way I train, and it got me thinking. My and my business partner had a conversation, got as much money as we could out and then we got this place. Everything that we do we’re still learning, like how to dial into the fitness game. But to be honest, the stuff that we do here is not rocket science. It ain’t the hardest thing that people want to do, but if you do come here you will enjoy yourself and you’ll always get results.”

Q: Being a father and running your own business, is it safe to say that your life post the NRL has been pretty fulfilling and satisfying?

A: I know so many Footy players that have retired and they don’t give in to their life, but they jump into a 9-5 and I feel like I’m beating that stereotype. Not just as a young Polynesian man, but also as an ex-Footy player. I’m walking on grounds that not many people get to walk on, so in terms of that and just being able to show that to my children it’s really fulfilling. Because the last thing that I’d ever want my children to feel or to think about is that their dreams won’t come true. I got to play NRL twice and after it I owned my own business, and I am my own boss. I can’t wait for them to realise that when they get older, my dad’s a cool ass dad”

Many thanks go out to Anthony for taking the time out to help tell a bit about his life, both on and off the field. He was a bloody tough player, somebody who constantly persevered throughout his injuries and is both a proud father and business owner. Cheers for reading.

Toby is somebody who is a knowledgeable and passionate sports fan, but none more than the NRL. From a young age, he has been covering and supporting Australia’s greatest code. He has diplomas in both sports and business, while he loves a good laugh, some good food and travelling.

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