Representative Honours: Australian Schoolboys 2003, Australian Under 19s 2004, Australian Under 21s 2004-2005, Australian Wallabies 2005-
Senior Tours: UK & France 2005, UK, Ireland & Italy 2006, Hong Kong & Europe 2008, Japan & Europe 2009, Hong Kong & Europe 2010, RWC (New Zealand) 2011, England & Wales 2011, Europe 2012; UK/Europe 2013
NSW Waratahs hooker TATAFU POLOTA-NAU will be determined to put an injury-riddled 2013 campaign behind him as he approaches his 50th Test appearance for the Qantas Wallabies this year.
In an unfortunate set of circumstances the damaging front-rower was ruled out of the majority of last year’s Test season due to a broken arm and then multiple hamstring injuries.
However, he wouldn’t be denied a chance to represent his country later in the year, with new coach Ewen McKenzie maintaining the faith to select him in two matches during their highly successful Spring Tour – against Ireland and Wales.
While frustrating, his injury-enforced absence allowed Polota-Nau the chance to enter 2014 in career-best shape and he has yet to disappoint during an enthralling campaign for the NSW Waratahs.
While the injury robbed him of most Test opportunities last year, Polota-Nau still has much to look forward to this year, as an appearance in just four of Australia’s Tests would see him join an exclusive club of 50-cap Wallabies.
Polota Nau started 12 of the 15 Tests played by the Qantas Wallabies in 2012 as Australia adopted the same ‘job sharing’ role with Polota-Nau and Moore, as the All Blacks applied with their experienced hookers, Keven Mealamu and Andrew Hore, to maximise the involvement and impact of both.
Now into his ninth season of service in the Australian Test jersey, such has been the impact of injury on his career, 2012 was just the second occasion to date in which Polota-Nau has reached double digits for appearances in a calendar year.
Injury cost him the entire 2007 Test season while knee surgery following the 2011 Super Rugby competition saw him miss out on Australia’s first Tri Nations title for a decade, although he did make it back in time to feature in all but one of the Wallabies’ matches at that year’s Rugby World Cup.
The IRB Under-21 Player of the Year in 2005, Polota-Nau took his maiden bow for the Wallabies in London later that year before he had even played Super Rugby. That honour followed in 2006 when he made his debut for the NSW Waratahs. A loyal servant of the NSW franchise since his freshman season, Polota-Nau won the NSW Player’s Player award in 2010, despite playing that season with spurs in his ankle which ultimately ruled him out of the Test arena for all but the last two Tests of the year. Such is the level of his influence in the side; it was no coincidence that NSW made Super Rugby’s semi-finals that year, on the back of the excellence he brought to the team.
Popular among his peers, with the press and the wider public at large due to his cheeky nature, Polota-Nau was raised in Sydney’s west but boasts a strong Tongan heritage and is fluent in the Tongan language. He also speaks Japanese, learning that off an uncle who played professionally in Japan, while his Spanish thrilled local press and fans when the Wallabies visited Rosario in Argentina last year.
A late comer to Rugby, after concentrating on his studies at Granville High School, the self proclaimed ‘nerd’ only took up the game after watching his older sister Moala play. His potential quickly became apparent – so much so that he was co-captaining the Australian Schools side within two years of taking up the game.
Polota-Nau attended both the Under-19 and Under-21 world championships in 2004, backing up at the latter event again in 2005 where he won his Player of the Year award. He was a proud member of the Western Sydney Rams in the sole season of the Australian Rugby Championship in 2007, before his work load in the Test arena was raised significantly from the start of 2008.
Prior to 2008, Polota-Nau had appeared in just three Tests. He played 20 through the next two years: seven in 2008 and 13 (from the possible 14 Tests) a year later. The busy 2009 saw Polota-Nau score his first Test try, during the 34-12 win over Italy in Melbourne. A second followed in Australia’s 33-12 crushing of Wales at Cardiff which brought the season to a close. Polota-Nau is an active board member and patriarch at Sydney’s Parramatta club, with his profile having helped to revitalise the ‘Two Blues’ as a force in the Shute Shield in recent seasons. His work as the ‘face’ of Western Sydney Rugby saw him named as the 2011 Parramatta Sports Person of the Year, being announced shortly after he returned from attending his maiden Rugby World Cup. The award recognised his input, both for Parramatta Rugby, but also his contribution as an ambassador for sport in the greater western area of Sydney. This region of Australia’s largest city boasts a large Pacific Island representation among its diverse multi-cultural populace.
Qantas Wallabies front-rowers Tatafu Polota-Nau and Salesi Ma’afu are first cousins. Ma’afu’s mother is the sister of Polota-Nau’s father. Another of Polota-Nau’s relatives is a professional wrestler in the United States, who performed under the name of King Hakau in the WWF and then WWE wrestling circuits.