NRL-bound Wallabies outcast primed for stunning late Olympic bid amid early release talks

Jared Wright
Mark Nawaqanitawase of the Waratahs warms up before the Super Rugby Pacific

Mark Nawaqanitawase of the Waratahs warms up before the Super Rugby Pacific.

Mark Nawaqanitawase could feature for Rugby Australia one more time before making his code switch to the NRL, with the opportunity to represent his country at the Olympics now on the cards.

The flying winger was a standout for the Wallabies during a forgettable Rugby World Cup campaign under Eddie Jones but will now be taking his talents to rugby league, having signed with the Sydney Roosters.

NRL or Olympic Games?

With the Waratahs’ season now over after failing to reach the Super Rugby Pacific play-offs, Nawaqanitawase is in high demand again with the possibility of making an early NRL switch and a chance at winning an Olympic gold medal on the cards.

According to a report by The Age, the Roosters are in talks with Nawaqanitawase’s camp about the prospect of the code-hopper getting an early release from his contract with Rugby Australia.

This would allow him to get a jump start at the NRL club and potentially play lower-level rugby league to ease his transition into the code.

It’s unlikely that he could fill in for Joseph-Aukuso Sua’ali’i, who is heading in the opposite direction. He is set to be suspended following his red card in the State of Origin clash, with the switch too soon for the 23-year-old.

Rugby Australia’s million-dollar recruit red-carded after horrific State of Origin tackle prompting ‘awful spray’ from opposition coach

But he and Rugby Australia would need to reach a decision soon if he is to make an early switch, with the NRL’s transfer deadline on June 30.

Wallabies rejection

Rugby Australia could grant the winger an early release in order to save on five months of his salary after Joe Schmidt omitted him from his first training squad since the conclusion of the Super Rugby Pacific regular season.

Nawaqanitawase could still represent the Wallabies this year but has been seemingly overlooked along with Izaia Perese and other Waratahs players who are heading abroad before the British and Irish Lions series next year.

Antoine Dupont, Hugo Keenan and the other rugby stars pushing for Olympic Gold in Paris

However, Australian sevens coach John Manenti is open to selecting the speedster in his Olympic Games squad at the final hour.

“I know ‘Marky’ pretty well and we have had a few conversations,” Manenti told The Age.

“I would certainly include him [in the selection mix] and have a look at him. There is a fair bit of work for him to do to get up to speed quickly but he has played with us before, and he went to the Commonwealth Games, at late notice as well. We want some more weapons to fire so he is still an option.”

Australia head to Fiji next week for practice matches before the Paris Olympics and he would need to be in the group by that time if he is to make the final squad.

READ MORE: Schmidt’s List: Brumbies speed merchant catches the eye while Reds contingent also impress