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Four years after making a prophetic promise to his grandmother, former schoolboy rugby reject Mark Nawaqanitawase will make a dream World Cup debut for the Wallabies.
Coach Eddie Jones has chosen Nawaqanitawase and teammate Marika Koroibete as his wingers for Australia’s tournament opener against Georgia in Paris on Sunday morning (AEST).
While his selection is no surprise after Jones and his predecessor Dave Rennie put in a string of eye-catching performances since their debut on the spring tour of Europe last year, Nawaqanitawase remembers almost losing out to rugby.
Nawaqanitawase, who was first overlooked in his final year of high school in Sydney, had planned to travel to New Zealand in 2019 to “see what this might lead to”.
“I was at Saint Pat’s and the best thing I did there was seconds, a little kick in the ass,” he told AAP.
“I actually wanted to go abroad.”
But current Australian sevens coach John Manenti was having none of it.
“John was actually a big part of my life,” Nawaqanitawase said.
“His son is one of my good friends from St Pats – we were in the same year – so John has watched me all my life.
“He heard I was going to New Zealand and said, ‘No mate, just stay.’
“So he managed to get me to do a trial with Shannon Fraser at the (NSW) Waratahs Academy.
“It was just after the HSE.”
The top-class defender performed so well in trial training that he was not only recruited by the Waratahs, but also made the 2019 U20 Junior World Championship team.
Four years ago, when Nawaqanitawase was just 18 and watching the Wallabies at the last World Cup in Japan, he told his “Nonna” Lorraine that he would represent Australia at the 2023 World Cup in France.
“It’s funny that she remembers me telling her I’m going to be at a World Cup, the next World Cup,” he said.
“It’s pretty crazy to think I said that four years ago. It’s been a pretty crazy ride.”
https://www.theroar.com.au/2023/09/08/kick-in-the-backside-marky-marks-staggering-schoolboy-rejection-and-lucky-break-that-kept-him-in-the-frame/ Marky Mark's shocking rejection as a schoolboy and his serendipity kept him in line