Wallabies winger Mark Nawaqanitawase who shares links to Fiji says Australian 7s Coach John Manenti has played a big part in his life.
Nawaqanitawase, who got his big break against Georgia in the Rugby World Cup and scored a try in their 35-15 win on Sunday, said he and Manenti’s son were good mates at school so the coach had been watching him his whole life.
Overlooked for the first XV in his final year of high school in Sydney, Nawaqanitawase had planned to venture to New Zealand in 2019 to “see what that could lead to”.
“I went to Saint Pat’s and the highest I made there was seconds, a bit of a kick in the backside,” he told AAP.
“I was actually going to go overseas.”
But Manenti was having none of it.
“John was actually a big part of my life,” Nawaqanitawase said.
“His son is one of my good mates from St Pats – we were in the same year – so John’s been watching me all my life.”
“He heard I was going to New Zealand and was like, ‘No mate, just stay’.
“So he managed to hook me up with a trial with Shannon Fraser at the (NSW) Waratahs Academy.
“It was just after the HSC.”
The classy back performed so well in the trial he was not only recruited by the Waratahs but also made the under-20s Junior World Cup team in 2019.
The rest, as they say, is history.
It was also four years ago, when Nawaqanitawase was only 18 and watching the Wallabies at the last World Cup in Japan, that he told his ‘nonna’ Lorraine he would be representing Australia at the 2023 global showpiece in France.
“It’s funny that she remembers me saying to her that I’ll get to a World Cup, the next World Cup,” he said.
“It’s pretty crazy to think that four years ago now I said that. It’s been a pretty crazy ride.”
After his impressive form in the opener, the 22-year-old is set to retain his place on the wings against Fiji with Marika Koroibete next Monday.