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'They laughed at us': Snobby slap down driving Force gun - and why he's needed a chip on his shoulder

22nd February, 2024
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22nd February, 2024
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If you want to know why Carlo Tizzano has a chip on his shoulder, you’ve got to go back to 2017.

After a state schoolboys match, the teenager went to exchange jerseys with his rivals from the eastern states.

What happened next left his blood boil.

“When you to go to state teams as a WA boy, you get the NSW and Queensland boys who laugh at you,” the now 24-year-old recalls in an interview with The Roar.

“I remember once we went to swap kit with the boys and they laughed at us and asked us why we would want WA kit? We’ll put WA on the map.”

With the Western Force temporarily removed from Super Rugby, it’s fair to say Tizzano carried that baggage across the Nullarbor when he arrived at the Waratahs wanting to give Super Rugby a shake in 2020.

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It didn’t take Tizzano long to make an impression, with the openside flanker immediately earning a spot on the bench behind Michael Hooper in the opening match of the 2020 season against the Crusaders.

But he also put a target on his back with his bold ambition – by stating that the only reason he came to the Waratahs was to take Hooper’s spot in the No.7 jersey.

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Carlo Tizzano says his boldness at the Waratahs wasn’t taken well by his teammates. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Talk about ruffling feathers.

“My teammates, they probably didn’t take it the right way – and I felt that,” Tizzano said.

“But that’s not a me problem – and it took me a while to realise that.”

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So how does Tizzano reflect on the infamous line?

“My mindset isn’t any different,” Tizzano said.

“I think a lot of people don’t understand that. At the end of the day, saying that to the media probably wasn’t the right thing. But what an awesome mindset for a 19-year-old kid to be like, ‘No, I’m coming here to compete.’

“I think people kind of come away from that and they go, ‘Oh, who does he think he is?’ But I’m just a kid who wants to compete.

“I’m from WA. It’s always been a lot harder for me to get to where I am because we don’t have the rugby schools, our programs aren’t as elite, and we don’t get recognised as much.

“Being from WA, you’ve got to have that chip on your shoulder and want to compete at every moment otherwise it’s going to be a bloody tough journey to being a professional rugby player because everyone plays AFL. If you want to play rugby in this AFL town, usually people laugh at you.

“I look back on it and think I probably shouldn’t have said anything, but I won’t hide behind it.”

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Carlo Tizzano says the change at the Western Force since his return to the Super Rugby franchise has been stark. (Photo by James Worsfold/Getty Images)

Tizzano left the Waratahs at the end of 2022.

With Charlie Gamble having a breakout season and Hooper ultimately playing his final season in the blue jersey last year, Tizzano left and spent a season in England’s second tier RFU Championship with Ealing Trailfinders.

The season gave Tizzano, whose physicality, work rate and prowess over the ball have always been strong features of his game, a new perspective.

“To be honest, the quality of the rugby in the Championship wasn’t great,” he said.

“But, for me, I’ve been full-time since I was 17 and to go somewhere where I was a bit more relaxed and do a bit more travel and do this, do that … when I’m playing Super Rugby I’m very tunnel-visioned and that can be quite consuming, so it was nice to move away and get a bit more perspective on things.

“It made me appreciate the game a lot more playing in zero degrees on a cabbage patch.”

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It wasn’t long before Tizzano made his way home, as new Force coach Simon Cron, a former loose-forward himself, welcomed the local talent back to the Super Rugby franchise.

Despite coming off an ankle injury, Tizzano was catapulted straight into the firing line and made an instant impression towards the back end of last season.

His strong work rate and ability to get on the ball made many sit up and take notice.

Tizzano, too, has noticed a significant change at the Force since he first burst on the scene for the club in Andrew Forrest’s Global Rapid Rugby series.

“When I got here I was like ‘Holy’,” Tizzano said. “I thought I’d missed out over the past year.

“It’s crazy. When I look back when I was that age, you think you know a bit but you’ve got no clue.

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“Coming into this season compared to 2019, it’s exciting. To see the club and where it’s gone to. Look at our women’s program. We’re the first club to sign multi-year deals for some of our players. That’s unbelievable.”

Simon Cron’s Force open their campaign against the Hurricanes on Friday night. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Tizzano said Cron, who is in his second season at the club, has helped drive the Force forward.

“He’s awesome. He’s a competitor himself,” Tizzano said.

“I come in early myself. But on the occasional morning he’s not in early, I’ll stand outside his desk and say, ‘Day off mate?’ Then he’ll go and Facetime me behind his desk at 7pm.

“His knowledge around the breakdown.

“To have Michael Hooper, Scotty Wisemantel and Mike Cron come in over the pre-season because they want to help out Cronny, and what we’re building, is unbelievable.

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“For all of them to say what we’re building here is legit, the culture and the high performance program we’re building here is bloody good, for them to say, it just proves we’re on the right track.”

As for Tizzano’s relationship with Hooper?

“Hoops is awesome,” the flanker said. “He’s so competitive himself. I’ve had so many yarns with Hoops. He came in over pre-season and how generous he is with his knowledge is second to none.”

Tizzano will start in the No.7 jersey against the Hurricanes in the Force’s opening Super Rugby match against the Hurricanes on Friday night.

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