Interview with Nemani Nadolo, Returning to NSW Waratahs

Things came to a head one night. Nadolo was picked up by police as he was leaving a local nightclub in his car.

“To be released here in Australia and my first stint in Europe not going the way I wanted it to… I handled it wrong, with alcohol,” he said.

“I was over the limit six times that night. I’m glad this happened to me when I was 21. I’m 34 now and have a family. There were two ways I could have dealt with it – I could have continued on this path or I could have learned from it and made different decisions.”

Japanese club NEC threw a lifeline to Nadolo but attached multiple threads. He couldn’t drink and wasn’t allowed to drive for the duration of his 10-month contract. At a fork in the road, Nadolo went all-in in rugby. He finished the season as the top league tryscorer and signed for another three years.

“That’s when I realized I could do something with my career,” he said.

The rest is well-documented history. NEC coach Greg Cooper – “the first coach who saw something in me” – recommended his towering flyer to Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder, and over the next two seasons Nadolo became Australia’s super rugby holdout, coming back to his home country to haunt and reach the top of the 2014 tryscorer list.

“When I came to Japan and they gave me these conditions, rugby became the most important thing in my life at that time,” Nadolo said. “It got me to where I am now, I started focusing on myself.”

On paper, Nadolo has never looked back. Crusaders to Montpellier to Leicester, where today’s England manager Steve Borthwick marveled, “I’ve never seen a player like Nemani…he can do things I’ve never seen before,” referring to Nadolo’s ballplay skills and his silky hands.

The product of St Joseph’s College, Nudgee, whose cousins ​​include Lote Tuqiri and Tevita Kuridrani, has felt at home in all major rugby competitions. He ended up at Welford Road, a popular expat member of the Tigers family whose broad Aussie tone was often heard on the pitch after home games. In two and a half seasons, he scored 19 tries in 43 appearances, 13 of which came in the Tigers’ 2021-22 season, which won the Premier League.

Aaron Mauger, Nadolo’s attacking coach with the Crusaders, watched everything unfold, unsurprised by the powerful winger’s performance.

“He’s a special man and a special footy player,” Mauger told dem herald. “He has the ability to swing games and win games with his real triple threat skills, whether it’s with his obvious power game or his more subtle handling and offload game or his kick game.”

Nemani Nadolo in action for the Waratahs during a friendly in 2010 before being sacked by the team.

Nemani Nadolo in action for the Waratahs during a friendly in 2010 before being sacked by the team.Credit:Mark Logan

Despite the success and validation, however, there was a dream Nadolo couldn’t let go and the sting of that early rejection he never quite got rid of. Every time a contract ended, he asked his agent if there was any interest in Australia. The answer was – until last year – always “no”.

“That gives you a sense of how much it meant to me,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong, I’ve moved on and done some wonderful things in the game I’d like to think. I’ve represented some wonderful clubs, the highlight representing Fiji. I played in a World Cup and I played against Australia a lot. But when someone asks me: ‘Would you like to have played for Australia?’ Naturally.

“I grew up in Australia, my parents moved over from Fiji when I was three months old, I grew up in Ipswich and went to school in Brisbane at Nudgee. You always want to make a career where you grew up. It was unfortunate that I didn’t get this opportunity, but that doesn’t mean I regret it. When one door closes, another opens, and there is also a saying about going where you are valued.”

In the end, it took another all-in move to fulfill Nadolo’s childhood dream. Desperate to return to Australia with his family, the 34-year-old told the Tigers he would be traveling home midway through the 2022-23 season. But with no offer on the table and years of silence shaping his expectations, Nadolo was ready to back down if nothing happened.

Luckily, an ancient connection knew what the universe had to offer. Darren Coleman, entering his second season as Waratahs coach, worked with Nadolo as Fiji’s attacking coach a decade earlier. Coleman jumped at the opportunity to add Nadolo’s size, strength and experience to the talented NSW squad.

In December, almost 15 years after the Waratahs rejected a young Nadolo, he was welcomed back into the herd.

Everywhere there are reminders of the tortuous path that life can take. It took a minute, but at some point in a grueling pre-season training session, Nadolo realized the young full-back he was running alongside was Max Jorgensen, the son of one of his old Randwick teammates, Wallabies and NRL player Peter Jorgensen.


Then, hanging on a wall in the team room at the Waratahs’ brand new Daceyville training facility, is a photo of the moment the team won the 2014 Super Rugby title. Nadolo is in the background, shoulders slumped, in the Crusaders jersey. He was a consistent top tryscorer that season and scored in the final, but his campaign of revenge – as many claimed at the time – ended in catching Bernard Foley’s match-winning penalty behind the post. The Waratahs were still out of range.

“Rejection, you can go both ways. You can accept it or you can go and prove you’re worth it,” he said.

“I had that in the back of my mind for most of my career. Now that I’m back where the rejection started, the good thing is that I’m very mature as a person, I’ve grown a lot, I have a family of my own and that stuff doesn’t come to me anymore.

“Now I’m proud that I didn’t give up and that I’m back with the Waratahs. It’s not about anyone else now, I have one last chance to prove to myself that I can play Super Rugby in Australia. That’s the biggest thing for me.”

Check out all the action from the Six Nations Starting February 5th, every game will be streamed ad-free, live and exclusively on Stan Sport. Interview with Nemani Nadolo, Returning to NSW Waratahs

Ryan Sederquist

InternetCloning is an automatic aggregator of the all world’s media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials, please contact us by email – The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Related Articles

Back to top button