By STEVE MASCORD
ENGLAND winger Josh Charnley has not been to Australia before – but he has already endured an NRL-style scandal.
Charnley, who holds the record for most tries in a season during British football’s summer era with 43, makes his second appearance back from a hernia operation in the World Club Challenge against Sydney Roosters at Allianz Stadium tonight.
Like several members of coach Shaun Wane’s side, he could find himself a recruitment target for NRL clubs with a strong performance.
And while he is new to the league wonderland of Sydney, having never made the junior tours many of his club-mates frequented, the attendant media scrutiny is nothing new to a man who found out a few hours before a Super League game last year that a naked photo had gone viral on the internet.
“It was only (taken) when I was 17 – it went out, an ex-girlfriend put it on,” 22-year-old Charnley, who has never previously spoken about the incident that mirrored a similar kerfuffle surrounding compatriot George Burgess, tells Fairfax Media.
“It wasn’t a distraction, it was just one of those things. I was with her miles before it went out. One weekend it just went out. It didn’t bother me at all, I can handle pressure.
“(But) people were tweeting it to my mum and stuff. It was upsetting for that…”
When the photo was retweeted by the fake Twitter account of a commentator, the TV man was interviewed by police at a match for passing on pornography.
Peering out from the overseas passenger terminal at The Rocks as the Queen Mary passed the Sydney Opera House during a team function on Wednesday night, Charnley found himself in almost alien surroundings.
“This is my first time, I’ve never been,” he said. “I’m looking forward to playing but I’m also interested to see the lifestyle as well.
“Everyone said it was all sandy with nice weather.”
He says he has three Australians to thank for his emergence as one of Super League’s speediest (“I’ve never timed myself – I just put my head down and go”) players.
“I had Michael Maguire as coach and he was really into his backs, Waney as assistant was into his forwards,” he explains. “So I got taught. Amos Roberts as well, when I was coming through the ranks, and Pat Richards – they’re probably two of the world’s best wingers.
“They fed into me where to go and what to do and I just went on with it. I was told coming through the academy: ‘you can always get better’.”
Initially, Charnley never thought he would make a living out of rugby league. “I’m a qualified bricklayer, I’ve got that on the side. I can build a few walls, a few barbecues and stuff like that.”
Now, the sand and nice weather – and media scrutiny – could be all his should the NRL come knocking, although he has two years left at the DW Stadium.
“I’ve not really thought about it,” he says. “I’m happy at Wigan. Wigan’s a good team. We did the double last year. Inside Wigan, the culture is unbelievable so I’m enjoying my rugby and enjoying my time there.
“It’s important for us because we’re the first team in so many years to go over to Oz. The Super League is backing us to go over there and do a job.”
While fullback Matt Bowen is not known as a big talker, Charnley says the club’s new signings are fitting in well.”He comes out with a few one-liners which are funny.
He’s a good bloke, same as Eddy Pettybourne – he’s been a lively character in camp.”
Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD