WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Nemani Nadolo’s thick Australian accent is just one tell-tale sign the New South Wales Waratahs’ decision to let the rampaging winger slip through their fingers could come back to haunt them on Saturday.
The Fiji international crossed the Tasman Sea with his Canterbury Crusaders side on Wednesday intent on clinching their eighth Super Rugby title in the final against the Waratahs, who cut him loose after a solitary season in 2009.
“When you are unwanted and have got to go elsewhere and find opportunities I guess when the door shut there you do feel a bit sad,” Nadolo told Television New Zealand of his dumping by the Waratahs before the Crusaders flew to Sydney.
“But life goes on and five years later I’m here and going to play against them which will be good... and a challenge I am looking forward to.”
Born in Fiji, Nadolo moved with his family to Brisbane as a young child and grew up in Queensland where his father played for the state alongside Wallabies World Cup winner Tim Horan.
Rugby ran deep in the family.
Nadolo attended the storied rugby school Nudgee College, while former dual international Lote Tuqiri and current Wallabies centre Tevita Kuridrani are cousins.
He transferred that high school promise onto the international stage where he was the top try-scorer for Australia in the International Rugby Board’s junior World Cup in 2008 and was signed by the Waratahs.
The Sydney-based side, however, let him go after just one season, believing the 1.95-metre tall, 130kg Nadolo was not fast enough to play on the wing.
Nadolo then bounced around between clubs in England, France and back to Australia before he finally settled in Japan with NEC Green Rockets in 2011.
Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder, searching for a block-busting prototype to ignite a backline that was full of skilled players but no-one of any great size or potent line-breaking ability, settled on Nadolo after a tip from former All Blacks fullback Greg Cooper, who was coaching NEC.
“We are looking for something just a little bit different, a little bit of X-factor,” Blackadder told The Press newspaper when Nadolo was named in the Crusaders squad last year.
“And this guy has got it. He is an absolute hulk of a man, yet he can fly down the field like you wouldn’t believe for a man that size.
“Comparisons have been drawn with (former All Blacks winger) Jonah Lomu, and we can’t wait to work with him and unleash him in this competition.”
Unleash him they did. Nadolo was the second highest try-scorer during the season with 11, one behind Waratahs’ fullback Israel Folau.
It is not only his try-scoring ability that has helped the Crusaders into their 11th final.
Nadolo creates doubt in the minds of defensive lines and is able to break tackles - he has the highest number in Super Rugby this year with 26 - and gets his hand free to pass the ball to team mates running off him.
The biggest concern for Crusaders’ fans is that his contract situation is still to be determined and few would like to see their side repeat the Waratahs’ earlier error.
Nadolo will return to NEC for Japan’s Top League, which dovetails with the southern hemisphere competition, though he said the Crusaders are the only team he would consider playing for in Super Rugby.
“It hasn’t been sorted out, yet, but hopefully it will be pretty soon,” he told the Press earlier this month.
“I am off to Japan after this but I really want to come back and build on this. We’re in talks.
“If I am going to play Super Rugby it is going to be with the Crusaders. They have given me this opportunity, so the loyalty is there.
“I have always wanted to play Super Rugby and in the past things didn’t go my way. These guys came and gave me a lifeline and I am forever indebted to them.”
Writing by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by John O'Brien