A rugby-loving Hawke's Bay teacher says he's healthier than ever after eight weeks of training with the Highlanders.
Ben Carpenter was one of five hopefuls who took part in TV3's 2nd Chance Charlie – a training programme where contestants fought for a second chance at rugby success.
The 28-year-old, who plays number eight for Otane Sports Club, spent two months training with Super Rugby side the Highlanders, but sadly missed out on winning the competition.
But the Te Aute College teacher lost 18kg throughout the series after a number of mental and physical challenges – the most of any of the contestants.
Carpenter said there was nowhere to hide when it came to his fitness early in the docu-series.
"Training with the pros was an unreal experience and I learnt so much in a short amount of time," he said.
"I was given some real hard truths, but that fuelled the fire for me to get my A into G. It was hard to hear at times and I was pretty disappointed with my results early on but it was my fault I was in the shape I was, no one else's."
Carpenter said he was thankful for the coaches' and players' honesty and is now happy with the results.
"It's had a ripple effect on every part of my life," he said. "While I may not have won the competition, I know I'm a winner.
"I have a stronger sense of self, and I'm happier – which means those closest to me are happier too. I have my drive back."
Throughout the series, the group trained alongside ex-professional Joe Naufahu, as well as All Blacks World Cup winners Stephen Donald and Liam Messam.
Carpenter's fellow 2nd Chance Charlie competitors were Damon Abraham (Blues), Nick Lyon (Chiefs), Tim Murgatroyd (Crusaders) and Tipene Meihana (Hurricanes), who went on to win the 2degrees-run reality TV show.
Meihana, who previously played for Ngati Porou East Coast, won $15,000 prize money and a three-month personalised training, mentoring and development programme by the Hurricanes.
A Hawke's Bay representative from Under-13s to Under-18s and currently helping run the Otane Maori Club, Carpenter said his path to rugby wasn't straight forward.
"Funnily enough I played soccer until I was eight," he said. "I remember wanting to go back to soccer after my first year of rugby, but my dad wouldn't let me.
"But as all Kiwi kids do, I remember the early mornings in bare feet running around the field in the frost trying to find a fresh bit of cow or sheep poo to warm up the toes."
Raised in Waipukurau and now living in Pukehou, Carpenter went on to play for Hawke's Bay Māori, Otago Māori and the South Island team.
He said with hard work earlier on his playing days, a career in rugby could've been on the cards.
"I made the Otago Under-19 squad but didn't make the final cut. Upon reflection, that is when I gave up on professional rugby. I sulked instead of knuckling down and working hard.
"Playing for Hawke's Bay Māori was a privilege - I love Māori rugby. It's my passion."
Carpenter said with clearer goals and motivation, he hopes to be the best player and person possible for his club, whānau, mahi and community.
Donald, who currently plays for the NEC Green Rockets in the Japanese Top League, has his own second chance story after being added to the All Blacks squad at the eleventh hour and going on to kick the winning goal in the 2011 RWC final.
Donald said he was grateful to have the opportunity to potentially help someone change their life.
Messam, who missed out on an All Blacks RWC spot back in 2007, also fought hard for his second chance and went on to play 43 caps for his country and was part of the winning All Blacks squad at the 2015 RWC.
He said the five contestants were "fantastic players who truly deserve a second chance".