From tragedy to triumph

“The rebuilding of rugby standout Watene Waenga” by David Robson.

The powerful New Zealand-born rugby midfielder Watene Waenga is known for bulldozing his way through multiple defenders on footy fields in both his home country and Australia. A picture of perfect health, Watene, 28 is now a full-time advocate of the fitness lifestyle.

Unlike many of his rugby peers, he seldom drinks alcohol. Smoking and unhealthy eating are certainly out for the devoted family man, whose three children (aged 12, 10 and 8) have inspired him to continue winning, on the field and off. It is no small irony, then, that in 2009 the health-conscious Watene was leveled with two debilitating blood diseases: aplastic anaemia and paroxysmal nocturnal haemoglobinuria (PNH).

“At first I was constantly tired, I couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs without becoming breathless and having to rest. I was always bleeding and the blood was hard to stop. My blood counts were low. I had headaches all the time and my body would ache throughout the day. I was constantly covered in bruises.”

Told by one doctor that he was lucky to be alive and by another that he would never play rugby again, Watene, 22 at the time, nevertheless continued to pursue his rugby dreams. Never losing hope and staying informed on how to best manage his conditions, he put in place a plan that would enable him to achieve the best shape of his life. Today Watene’s health is better than ever and athletically he is at the top of his game.

“I’ve always been involved in the fitness industry, striving and aiming to be fit and strong for rugby, however, it was after being sick and diagnosed with my blood disorders that I took a good look into my fitness and health practices and began to learn more about my body.”

Watene is now eating cleaner than ever and such nutritional consistency is reflected in the increased vitality he displays in the gym and on the field. He avoids acid-forming foods to optimise his body’s acid-base balance to ensure his body is “properly alkalised through green vegetables and by avoiding sugars and processed foods.” He eats mostly whole foods to ensure his body is getting the nutrients and vitamins it needs to recover fast.

Though he continues to closely monitor the conditions that almost cost him his life, Watene has achieved his goal of returning to full fitness. He has spent the years following his diagnoses fulfilling his athletic potential and, with his improved physique and ever-burgeoning competitive nature driving him on, he’s now eyeing men’s physique competition and boxing along with continued footy success.

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