The Sydney Roosters, an NRL powerhouse, will meet with Wallabies rising talent Mark Nawaqanitawase next week in what could be a move that sends shockwaves across the 15-man game. Tension between the Sydney Roosters and Rugby Australia is about to explode.
The Roosters may be about to extract retribution on one of the Wallabies’ greatest players following a poor World Cup campaign in France, as Joseph Suaalii is set to depart the team at the end of 2024.
The Roosters are considering Nawaqanitawase as a potential replacement for Daniel Tupou, who is expected to retire at the end of 2024, and Suaalii’s departure. Nawaqanitawase has been compared to a young Israel Folau.
Their focus is warranted given the disastrous World Cup under the now-departed coach Eddie Jones, the massive $A4.8 million, three-year contract that Suaalii signed, and the $1.6 million, two-year contract that fellow Roosters player Angus Crichton was offered after a disastrous previous negotiation.
Next week, Nawaqanitawase, who will have his contract with the NSW Waratahs expire at the end of 2024, is expected to meet with club president Nick Politis and Roosters coach Trent Robinson.
The 23-year-old played rugby league as a youth for the Concord Burwood Wolves and Leichhardt Wanderers until he was 14 years old, and the Roosters are eager to investigate the potential of enticing him back to the sport.
In 1991, his father Sevuloni, a rugby league player, relocated to Sydney to play for Balmain after leaving Fiji. Nawaqanitawase, a Year 10 student, also participated in rugby as a member of St Patrick’s College, Strathfield’s first XV alongside future Wests Tigers five-eighth Adam Doueihi.
When this masthead reached out to the Roosters on Friday afternoon, they declined to comment. The management of Nawaqanitawase likewise refrained from commenting. Hamish McLennan, the chairman of Rugby Australia, could not be reached.
When contacted on Friday, Phil Waugh, the chief executive of Rugby Australia, stated that the 15-man competition was eager to keep the flying winger, but he was not aware of the discussion with the Roosters.
“One of the most important players for the future of the game in Australia is someone like Mark,” Waugh remarked.
“There are two great upcoming events: the home World Cup in 2027 and the British and Irish Lions tour in 2025. All players have a fantastic opportunity to take part in such historic athletic events in Australia.
“Mark is just beginning his rugby career in Australia, so it’s critical that we offer him with the greatest guidance and atmosphere possible to help him thrive. That is our duty, and we are now putting a lot of effort into it.
Nawaqanitawase expressed his desire for a long-term agreement with RA in a May interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, but the code was unwilling to extend his contract past 2024. Now, that choice might come back to haunt them.
At the time, Nawaqanitawase remarked, “I would have liked more; I’d love to stay here as long as I can.” We had to reach a consensus over some matters. At the moment, the finest thing was the one-year [contract].
“Ideally, I would like to continue playing rugby, but there’s always a but.” Of course, there are other things in the world that I might find interesting.
In Florence last year, the 23-year-old made his Wallabies debut against Italy. Although he is thought to be one of the best young players in the league, Rugby Australia might have trouble keeping him, Suaalii, and Max Jorgensen—another Roosters target—at the Waratahs.