Twelve years after being cut adrift by the Waratahs, Nemani Nadolo’s return to the Super Rugby franchise will be confirmed on Tuesday as his storied career as another chapter written in it.
The 34-year-old powerhouse, who has played 32 Tests for Fiji and scored against England at the 2015 World Cup, has signed a one-year deal with Darren Coleman’s side.
His signing will provide the Waratahs a different dimension, where they have lacked power and size out wide ever since Israel Folau was sacked and Taqele Naiyaravoro left the franchise ahead of the 2019 World Cup.
The 195cm, 138kg giant winger hasn’t been seen in the southern hemisphere since he left the Crusaders in 2016.
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Before then, however, he left a mark on the game just as big as his presence, scoring 27 tries across three seasons.
“Who would’ve thought after leaving these doors 12 years ago I’d get another opportunity to be part of the club again,” Nadolo said.
“I’m grateful to Darren and the board for having faith in me and giving me another opportunity.
“NSW are heading in the right direction and I’m glad I can be a part of their journey.”
Nadolo might be in the twilight of his career but he is no washed-up player.
He played a significant role in Leicester Tigers’ remarkable turnaround under Eddie Jones’ former right-hand man Steve Borthwick as the English heavyweights ended their premiership drought to win this year’s title.
“He can do things that I have not seen before,” Borthwick said earlier this season.
“The ability to catch balls one-handed, to pick balls up to carry.
“The other thing you don’t see that he’s brilliant at is jackaling [for] the ball on the floor as well. Now, how? When you’re 6ft 5in, I don’t know. But he can. So, [I’m] privileged to work with him. And very grateful to him and he continues to keep doing all the work he does, over and above what normally people don’t see to get himself right.”
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Nadolo will leave Leicester midway through the season and arrive at Daceyville on December 1.
He will complement a squad on the rise under Coleman, who turned the corner under the perennial Shute Shield-winner and went from winless in 2021 to making the Super Rugby finals in the coach’s first season.
But for the skill-set of Kurtley Beale and the rising talents of Ben Donaldson and Mark Nawaqanitawase, he will inject some muscle and big match experience into one of the most exciting rosters in Australian rugby.
“We’ve all seen what Nemani has done in World Rugby in the last ten years and it’s incredibly exciting to have him in a sky-blue jersey,” Coleman said.
“One of the things we identified from our season review was the need to add some size and power to our roster, and Nemani brings a lot of size and physicality which will add an extra dimension to our team.
“He’s motivated to get back to Sydney have another crack at Super Rugby and push his claims to get in the Fijian Test team for their 2023 Rugby World Cup campaign.”
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