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'Eat dirty': Wests Tigers' message to underweight Garner

"You are going to have to eat dirty."

The unusual message was delivered by the Wests Tigers training and conditioning staff to back-rower Luke Garner, who has been fighting a losing battle to put on weight.

Usually at the start of a rugby league pre-season it is the forwards who fit into their training shorts and shirts a little too tightly.

But the 24-year-old forward is the exception.

When he returned to 2020 pre-season he had a chat with coach Michael Maguire on how he could make improvements to his game.

The reply came back: Get heavier.

"First of all he told me I've got to put on a little more weight. I'm hanging a bit light for a back rower now at 98, 99 kilos," Garner said.

"So I've got three or four more I want to put on. It's so hard to put on weight because I don't like eating too dirty," he said, referring to fast food and snacks.

"I spoke to the trainer the last week and he said 'You have to eat dirty'.

"So over the weekend I just had chocolate, pizzas and burgers. I put on a little – about a kilo-and-a-half – but there's more to go.

"It's not the worst situation to be in I suppose."

Garner gives Wests Tigers a glimmer of hope

It is an unusual one though – just ask all the players who have been relegated to the 'fat club' of diets and an early morning extra gym sessions to shift the kilos.

"I've been trying to put on weight for the last couple of years, and that's been by eating clean, and I just can't do it," Garner said.

"Maybe eating dirty might be the way to go."

One thing Garner doesn't want to change is his building combination with halfback Luke Brooks on the Wests Tigers left edge. It played a part in Garner scoring seven tries in his 14 NRL games last season.

"We are developing nicely actually. We only came back to training on Monday so we are trying to kick-start that up again and continue with our chemistry for the rest of next year," Garner said.

"I love his accurate passes. But the biggest thing for me is his defence.

"He's probably one of the best defensive halves I've ever seen to be honest. He doesn't shy away from a tackle and he's very tough. So it's very safe playing beside him."

The club has also offered its own brand of security for Garner, re-signing him until the end of 2022.

"It's awesome. I debuted here at the club [in 2018] and to be honest I couldn't see myself playing anywhere else. I love the boys. I love Madge, I love the coaches, so very happy to stay.

"I look back in the off-season and came to the realisation of what happened. I was very happy with how my year went. I'm pretty excited to take that further into 2020 and hopefully my goal is to play representative football at some stage."