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Code-hopping Wallaby’s verdict on whether star duo will thrive in NRL

By Finn Morton
Carter Gordon, Mark Nawaqanitawase of Australia line up during the National Anthems prior to the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between Wales and Australia at Parc Olympique on September 24, 2023 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Former NRL playmaker turned Wallabies outside back Tom Wright has tipped Carter Gordon and Mark Nawaqanitawase to thrive in rugby league after penning deals with the Gold Coast Titans and Sydney Roosters respectively.

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Wright, who formerly played for the Manly Sea Eagles before making the switch to rugby union with the ACT Brumbies, is among the favourites to wear the Wallabies’ No. 15 jumper on Saturday. The Aussies are just days away from kicking off their season against Wales.

While there’s been plenty of talk this year about the excitement that new boss Joe Schmidt has brought by assembling a world-class coaching staff, the NRL has been in rugby’s headlines a fair bit with two former Wallabies making a code switch.

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Mark Nawaqanitawase has been granted a release to join the Sydney Roosters after competing at the Olympic Games in Paris – if selected – this month, but there hasn’t been any official comment on Carter Gordon’s future in 2024.

But it’s a matter of when both men debut in the National Rugby League arena. There will be plenty of interest and intrigue surrounding the pair as they embark on a new career, but a current Wallaby expects them to do quite well.

“I think that’s exciting for those guys,” Wright told reporters on Tuesday.

“For someone trying to decide their future, like you’ve got to look after yourself. I think he’s (Gordon) for the skillset to transition to the game really well.

“And I can’t see him doing anything except going really well. I think he’s got the pass, kick, run which we saw a fair bit of last year in the Tests. So yeah, exciting opportunity.

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“Mark’s a no-brainer – obviously, a big, athletic guy that will fit into the Chooks system probably to a T.”

Nawaqanitawase was the first marquee Wallaby to jump codes. It was reported late last year that the winger had met with Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson, and this turned into a deal with the Aussie signing on in December.

As for Carter Gordon, that announcement made international headlines in rugby with Australia’s first-choice No. 10 at last year’s World Cup deciding to jump codes.  At just 23 years of age, it was a surprise to many.

With Gordon’s club the Melbourne Rebels folding after the Super Rugby Pacific season, some playing futures remain up in the air. But when asked if more players could make the move to rugby league, Wright was fairly clear in his reply.

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“Probably not, like it’s awesome media hype and I get all that stuff,” Wright explained.

“I think for the guys in Melbourne (Rebels), like obviously Carter’s one but I don’t think too many (will also switch to the NRL).

“Like when we’re here, everyone’s just flat out trying to get in the 23, not worrying too much about trying to fit in at lock at the Raiders.”

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