With his heavily-tattooed arms, trendy earrings and penchant for extravagant hair cuts, Josh Charnley looks every bit rugby league’s answer to David Beckham.
But the 23-year-old Wigan Warriors winger – one of the biggest stars of Super League – is not really one for the showbiz lifestyle.
In fact, Charnley, who hails from Chorley, likes nothing better than spending his spare time breathing in the fresh air of country life at his mate’s farm.
Although his appearance does not befit the typical farmhand, the prolific try scorer escapes the pressures of top-level sport by ‘mucking about’ on the fields of Rivington.
Although, he is not quite the expert when it comes to rearing sheep, he is not afraid to get his hands dirty.
“I still go up to the farm every day, it’s my neighbour’s best mate’s farm.
“I just go up there to walk my dog and relax. I can’t milk a cow or anything like that – I’m not that hands-on but I just muck about a bit...drive the tractor around, it’s good.
“You have to get out of it sometimes. If you stay in Wigan all the time, it’s all rugby, rugby, rugby... so you need to get away from it all.
“Nobody knows who I am up there on the farm so nobody bothers me, it’s nice.”
Charnley may well be a country boy at heart, but he comes alive when he has got a rugby ball under his arm .
His rise in the sport has been nothing short of remarkable since arriving on the Super League scene in 2010.
A short spell on loan with Hull Kingston Rovers served notice of his burgeoning ability as he scored five tries in five games.
He returned to his parent club ready to make his mark.
And in his very first appearance for Wigan, he came off the bench to score – ironically against Hull KR.
It was the following season when he cemented a place in the Warriors starting XIII, scoring a phenomenal 28 tries in 32 appearances.
He capped a fine first full season as a regular by scoring the opening try in the Challenge Cup final as Wigan defeated Leeds Rhinos 28-18 .
His displays over the summer saw him pick up the clubs’ young player of the year award and his ability to finish tries off when the odds seemed stacked against him became a trademark.
Over the course of the next two years, Charnley smashed try-scoring records in the
In 2012, he helped Warriors to the League Leaders’ Shield and finished the campaign as the top try scorer in the country with 31 tries.
The following year, he became the all-time leading try scorer in a season when his mark of 43 tries smashed the previous best of 36 by Lesley Vainikolo.
His record-breaking exploits played an integral part in Wigan’s success as they defeated Warrington in the Grand Final.
They also reclaimed the Challenge Cup with a 16-0 win over Hull FC at Wembley.
Charnley admits he sometimes has to pinch himself to check if the last four or five years of his life are real.
“It’s great to be at a club as successful as Wigan are.”
“You always know that you’re going to win a little bit of silverware along the way.
“But it all happened at once for me – we did the double in 2013 and since 2010, it has been amazing
“And it’s gone so quick. I used to stand on the terraces at Wigan and I would never think that I could be out there one
day. It has been a total dream come true.”
And when asked what the secret is behind his prolific try scoring ratio,the flying winger was keen to deflect the credit.
“That’s all down to the boys really, it’s not really down to me,” he said.
“It’s down to the shapes we throw as a team and I’m just there to finish things off.”
If 2013 was Charnley’s best year to date, last season did not quite hit the heights both individually and as a team.
He spent a large portion of the season on the sidelines injured, although he still managed to amass 21 tries from 20 appearances.
Wigan still managed to finish second in Super League but they were unable to secure a second successive Grand Final victory as they lost 14-6 against St Helens.
The final was marred by Ben Flowers’ sending off early in the match for punching St Helens’ Lance Hohaia.
Flowers’ indiscretion had a major impact on the outcomes of the match, although Charnley believes Wigan could still have won.
“I felt we were all over St Helens in the final.
“We were getting overlaps on them, but we just let a few little decisions and a few personal errors to get in the way.
“Last season was a frustrating time for me.
“At the start of the year, I picked up a hernia right at the beginning and I was out for a long time and then I did my knee when I came back.
“So it was a bit of a bad year for me in terms of injuries.
“Hopefully this year I will be able to stay injury-free.”
Charnley has also become an integral member of the national team.
He featured for England in the 2013 World Cup as the Three Lions agonisingly came up short in the semi-finals, losing 20-18 to New Zealand at Wembley.
There was further international heartache last year as England came so close to upsettin the Kiwis and Australia.
Despite the disappointments at international level in recent years, Charnley is confident England can taste success at the next World Cup in 2017.
“It’s great to put on the jersey of your country.
“We fell just short again over in Australia and New Zealand last year.
“But we are a good set of lads and a very young squad.
“I think we will get there in the end.
“We did fall just short last year and in the World Cup but we’ve got a few years to build on.
“I think things went well for us against Australia and New Zealand, especially when you consider how young we are.
“I’m pretty sure that we will do well in years to come.”
While Charnley has been spending quite a bit of time in the farmyard of late, he will now turn his attentions to the new Super League season.
Wigan begin their campaign with a trip to Widnes Vikings thisThursday.
Preparations have not been the best and they have lost both their pre-season games.
But Charnley is confident he and his team-mates will be ready and raring to go.
“The season has come around quickly,” he said.
“We have had a tough pre-season and two tough games.
“But we can take a lot from those defeats.
“In the game against St Helens, we gave away too much ball and let them off the hook.
“We should have been doing to them what they were doing to us – using our pace and lines.
“It’s a learning curve. We can take lots from those defeats and turn them into positives.
Charnley began his career at Chorley Panthers as a junior before moving to Wigan St Patrick’s as a teenager.
“I used to play football as a kid, but I was dead hyperactive and I would throw kids about who I was playing against and get sent off all the time.
“But I went to a game with Jamie Ellis, who plays for Huddersfield Giants now, and I fell in love with it.
“I played for Chorley Panthers until the age of 16 and then I moved to St Pat’s – from there I got picked up by
Charnley is thoroughly enjoying his time at Wigan, although has not ruled out switching codes or taking up a lucrative opportunity to play in Australia in the future.
“I’ve still got two years left,” he said.
“When it’s the time to think about my future, I will sit down and make a decision.
“But I am happy here.”