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Wallabies lose one of their best players in shock defection to rugby league

By Ben Smith
Mark Nawaqanitawase of Australia looks on during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between Wales and Australia at Parc Olympique on September 24, 2023 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images)

Waratahs and Wallabies winger Mark Nawaqanitawase has shocked Australian Rugby after signing a new deal with rugby league that will see him leave union.

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A report from the Sydney Morning Herald confirmed that Nawaqanitawase has informed Rugby Australia of his pending move to the NRL in 2025 where he will play for the Roosters.

The Wallabies will lose one of their best talents on the eve of the British & Irish Lions tour in 2025. Despite the historic pool stage exit in France, the 23-year-old was a standout player at the Rugby World Cup.

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Nawaqanitawase has reportedly inked a two-year deal with the NRL club, where future Wallaby-in-waiting Joseph Sua’ali’i plays. The two players will effectively trade places as rugby league strikes back with a coup of their own.

The Herald had reported last month that meetings between Nawaqanitawase and the Roosters had taken place and they were set to offer the 6 ft 4 winger a deal.

“This has been an intense process for Mark and his family, which has taken some time to navigate,” Nawaqanitawase’s agent Fairbairn told SMH.

“At 23, Mark feels now is the best time to stay in Australia, but have a new experience in the Roosters program for 2025 and 2026.

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“Trent Robinson has a long line of success with working with rugby union talent – which ultimately was the catalyst in Mark’s decision.”

The signing will be a blow to the Wallabies playing depth out wide, however there is generally a high number of talented wingers in Australian Rugby.

Nawaqanitawase was no doubt one of the best, nailing down a starting role in 2023 as a dangerous runner with an uncanny ability to make line breaks.

He had size, power, speed and an offload game that flourished in a struggling Wallabies side trying to adopt a power-based forwards-orientated game plan.

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The door could still be open for the Waratah to return for 2027 when Australia hosts the Rugby World Cup.

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Eabn 7 hours ago
Open-minded Schmidt takes hands-on approach to Australia challenge

Who cares - boring is good when it comes to Media - they don’t bug you as much. While the focus is on the resurrection of the Wallabies, don’t forget the grass roots - Any opportunity you have to visit, train or promote Rugby down here in Melbourne / Regional is pretty much imperative given the current situation with the Rebels. I’m talking about us grass roots clubs and more so, clubs in the West of Melbourne who are being absolutely smashed by Rugby League and who have been contributing directly to the game down here long before the Rebels emerged and no doubt will do so well after they may be gone. All I have heard is all about the elite level, not the grass roots level so while the talk is about “ The Wallabies” and “Super Rugby Pacific” get back to the roots of Union and include us in your plans. So Phil Waugh and those leaders within RugbyAustralia, it’s on you to ensure the bottom feeders, so to speak, are included in all the talk and the funding if you want Union to regain ground and more respect within the Union and also the broader sporting fraternity. Given you have been in Melbourne a number off times over the last month, extending the courtesy of having a meet and greet with Victorian grass root clubs eluded you for some reason. Do we count or matter in RA’s and yours bigger picture?? Ean Drummond - Club Founder/President - Wyndham City Rhinos RUFC Inc. Hoppers Crossing, Melbourne.

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