Food For Thought
The days of takeaway are long gone for Alex Twal,now he’s hungry for success on and off the field.
By MARTIN GABOR
big league week
HE’S the young prop with a seemingly endless motor, and Alex Twal puts his freakish fitness down to a decision to swap Hungry Jack’s for jumping jacks in a bid to become a professional footballer.
While most front-rowers these days punch out 25 minutes before coming off, the Wests Tigers big man consistently puts in huge stints for his side. In the recent win over the Rabbitohs, Twal played the first half unchanged and returned after a 12-minute rest, making a team-high 41 tackles in the process.
His defensive efficiency is through the roof in 2019, with the 23-year-old making 96.2 per cent of his tackles, while he’s only 17 tackles away from bettering his season tally of 569 from 21 matches in 2018.
And while he makes things look easy on the field now, Twal reveals it was a lot different when he was a kid.
“I was very overweight when I was young,” he tells Big League.
“I’d eat anything that wasn’t good for you. Whether it was Maccas or double whoppers from Hungry Jack’s, I was out of control. But from a very early age, my dream was to play rugby league, so I knew I had to work hard to get there.
“It was Harold Matts (under-16s) when I realised I had to change. Everyone’s dream when they’re 15 or 16 is to play Harold Matts, and that was my first goal because I knew I could build a career from there.
“Now I just try to control the things that I can off the field, such as my diet and my training. I always make sure I put in the extras during the week and stay on top of my fitness requirements so that when I come out on the field, I know I’m prepared to the best of my ability and that the boys have the faith in me to get the job done.”
Twal may have moved on from burgers and kebabs, but food remains a big part of his life.
“I eat a lot and I love food challenges,” he says.
“I’ve got a pretty fast metabolism so I eat a lot, but it’s all good food. I’m all about organic food that’s going to benefit my body. I’m really big on that. I tend to stay away from things like schnitzel challenges and instead focus on things like massive steaks – I remember doing a one kilo T-Bone steak with mashed potato and salad – I love my challenges.”
One of Twal’s biggest influences this season has been the arrival of Ryan Matterson. The pair came through the Eels junior system together and have now reunited after going down different paths over recent years.
“We’ve been close for a few years. We grew up down the road from each other and we’re really good mates. Even when he went to the Roosters, we always stayed in touch,” Twal explains.
“He’s been awesome this year and he’s really taken on that leadership role. We feed off each other, and I believe he’s helped my football this year by helping me build my confidence.
“He’s won a premiership, he’s been in the frame for Origin and he’s one of the most consistent forwards in the comp, so I listen to him as much as possible because he’s someone I look up to. As soon as we leave training we’re on the phone chatting, and our girlfriends are really good friends so that makes it even better.”
His performances on the field have seen him rapidly rise from under-rated prop to one of the most reliable big men in the game, but Twal wants to ensure his legacy doesn’t finish with footy.
He wants to break the stereotypes often associated with forwards, and he’s hoping an internship with the Tigers down the track will kick-start a career in the financial sector once his footballing days are over.
“The boys always stitch me up at training as being a bit of a dope, but studies are important to me,” he says.
“I’m doing a Bachelor of Commerce, majoring in Marketing at the Australian Catholic University via correspondence, and I’m also doing my Cert III and IV in Fitness. I try to keep busy off the field because life after football is important – but I believe study helps you on the field as well.
“I’m actually looking to do an internship at the Tigers. It’s been a bit hard with all our away games, but it’s something I’m really serious about.”