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As young stars switch places, are 'Marky' and 'Joey' a chance to be 'All-Australian' rugby dual internationals?

Roar Guru
14th December, 2023
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Roar Guru
14th December, 2023
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We have two new famous rugby code hoppers: Mark Nawaqanitawase, who’ll be joining the Roosters in the NRL from the Waratahs/Wallabies in 2025, and Anavaotau’a Iosefa Aukuso Sua’ali’i (to use his Samoan Chief name), who’ll be heading in the opposite direction with his financial advisor in tow.

In the interests of brevity, we’ll stick with “Marky” and “Joey” here.

The astute among you will have already noticed I’ve conveniently made up the term “All-Australian rugby dual code international” – what I’m referring to here is someone who has been selected to play for both the Wallabies and the Kangaroos.

When rugby league in Australia split from rugby union in 1908, it took with it many of union’s greatest players, including 10 Wallabies who then turned out in tests for the Kangaroos that very same year.

Joseph Sua’ali’i returns to the Waratahs in 2025. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

These ten players became the first “All-Australian” rugby dual code internationals and a total of 47 players have now achieved “All-Australian” status (provided you’re happy to exclude Trevor Allan on the basis he represented ‘other nationalities’ in league Tests rather than Australia).

Making the list is no mean feat, particularly when you consider that only 7 players have done it this millennium, and they were all league players heading to union.

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Interestingly, the first 40 to achieve “All-Australian” status went from union to league, the last being Scott Gourley in 1991, while the last seven “All-Australians” have been rugby league outside backs who made the transition to union, with Karmichael Hunt being the last of them in 2017. So, can Marky and Joey make the grade and join this exclusive club?

Let’s start with Marky, who’ll be in his prime at 24 years of age when he joins the Roosters in 2025. At 192cm tall and tipping the scales at around 100kg, he has all the physical attributes required to make it in the NRL. He’s a powerful ball runner, quick, has great aerial skills, likes to get involved in the game and knows the way to the line.

From an “All-Australian” perspective he’s already halfway there, with 11 tests for the Wallabies under his belt, so he just needs to be selected for the Kangaroos to complete the double. I know this is easier said than done, and the question is will he be tempted to take the easy path to becoming a dual rugby code international by playing the heritage card and appear for either Italy or Fiji, or will he want to become an “All-Australian”?

Mark Nawaqanitawase of the Wallabies is tackled during The Rugby Championship match between the Australia Wallabies and Argentina at CommBank Stadium on July 15, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Scott Gardiner/Getty Images)

Mark Nawaqanitawase is headed to the National Rugby League’s Sydney Roosters. (Photo by Scott Gardiner/Getty Images)

If he makes an even half-reasonable fist of the transition to league, both Italy and Fiji would welcome him with open arms. But he could always later opt to play for the Kangaroos if the opportunity arose and his form was good enough.

We all know Nick Politis and the Roosters are astute recruiters so it’s a real possibility for Marky, as Roosters players often have the inside running when it comes to representative selection – but the constant production line of talented rugby league outside backs will mean he’ll really have to hit the ground running to win a Kangaroos call-up.

Clearly not an easy path, but certainly an achievable one. But of course, there’s always the possibility he’ll just return to rugby before he makes it as a Kangaroo.

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Now what about our Joey? He’s 3 years younger than Marky and is also a lethal attacking weapon both in the air and with the ball in hand.

He probably hasn’t fully filled out yet and when he does, he’ll be a very difficult proposition for any defence to deal with.

While he’s already played 6 rugby league tests for Samoa he hasn’t worn an Australian jersey in either code, so he has a lot of work to do from here on in, however given Rugby Australia’s (RA) huge investment in him, he’ll no doubt be fast-tracked into the Wallabies lineup some time in 2025.

Will Mark Nawaqanitawase be doing this in an Australian Kangaroos jersey? (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

Joey will be just 24 when his three-year contract with RA comes to an end and if he does himself proud in the Wallaby jersey, he would be an attractive proposition for any cashed-up NRL recruiter or car salesman.

If he returns to rugby league following his union sojourn, he’ll be a very experienced performer and would have plenty of time to earn a Kangaroo jersey assuming, of course, he doesn’t choose to stay loyal to Samoa.

Both Marky Mark and Joey Su are very gifted footballers. Both have the talent, the time, and the opportunity to join the ranks of the “All-Australian” rugby dual code internationals.

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It will be interesting to see how their careers play out from here, but my gut feel is that they’re more likely to end up as teammates in either the Roosters or the Wallabies backline than they are to join the “All-Australian” ranks.

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