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NRL: How will union star Mark Nawaqanitawase fair in code switch?

Mark Nawaqanitawase has caused a stir in both codes of rugby after confirming he will leave union to make the switch to NRL for the 2025 season.

Nawaqanitawase will run out for the Waratahs in 2024 but Sydney Roosters will be his next destination after fulfilling his contract with the Tahs.

With details on Nawaqanitawase’s background, style of play and reasons for joining the Roosters, here’s a look at the winger’s chances of being a success in NRL.

Nawaqanitawase not going in blind

Having played rugby league through junior levels before setting on union, Nawaqanitawase at least has some experience of the 13-man code before making the switch.

The try machine focused on the 15-man code from 14 years old but it’s clear the love of league has not left him.

While it will take Nawaqanitawase time to adapt to life at the Roosters and in the NRL, wing is one of the easier positions to transition back into.

Meanwhile, chiefs at the Wallabies have been trying to play down Nawaqanitawase’s departure from union in 2025.

The Rugby Australia chief executive Phil Waugh might well have been putting on a brave face following the disappointing news.

“We are disappointed – Mark has been a strong player over the last 12 months,” Waugh said.

“However, the outside backs are a position of strength for us, with great depth coming through. We are confident we are well stocked with talented wingers for the future.”

While the Wallabies do have options in the outside backs, Nawaqanitawase was by far the standout winger for Australia at the 2023 World Cup in France.

Those performances in the pool stage before the Wallabies' early exit should give the Roosters' supporters a taste of what to expect when Nawaqanitawase makes the switch in 2025.

Robinson key to Nawaqanitawase’s decision

Nawaqanitawase’s agent Andrew Fairbairn has admitted working with head coach Trent Robinson at the Roosters was a key factor in his client switching codes.

“This has been an intense process for Mark and his family, which has taken some time to navigate,” Fairbairn said.

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

Considering Nawaqanitawase’s pace and finishing ability, it’s easy to see why the Roosters were keen to bring him to Sydney.

Nawaqanitawase has had the bravery to take up a new challenge in NRL and he looks like he’s got the talent to be a great weapon for the Roosters, who are 10.00 to win the grand final in 2024.

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