Nabuli still in shock over Wallabies inclusion

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

When Eto Nabuli runs out at Allianz Stadium on Saturday, his family will be more than 3000 kilometres away, gathered around a television in the Fijian village of Malomalo.

Malomalo is where Nabuli was discovered back in 2012, a story that makes his run to a Wallabies debut all the more extraordinary.

Five years on from that incidental run-in with Andrew Johns and Brad Fittler, Nabuli can’t quite get his head around the fact he is going to play a Wallabies test.

“To be honest, man, I can’t believe where I am right now,” he said.

“The only thing I think is I just just work hard and do whatever is best for me, for this opportunity,” he said.

“It’s a really big thing for me, for the family."

Nabuli only found out he would be playing against Scotland on Thursday, by then too late to organise necessary travel arrangements for his family to come over, with Wallabies coach Michael Cheika keen on the element of surprise.

“All the family (is) back in Fiji because we have to do the visa again so it’s been late so the family will be in Fiji,” he said on Friday.

“He (Cheika) never told me because I was just doing training and doing (my) best.

“He never said anything to me but then (told everyone) in the team announcement.

“It was a surprise.”

Nabuli’s teammate Scott Sio joked it was a policy that might need some reviewing.

Quade Cooper congratulates Eto Nabuli on his debut. Photo: Walmsley“Cheik sort of has a habit of doing that, just letting everyone know at the team announcement,” he said.

“We’ll probably have to have a chat to Cheik about that, see if he can let us know a bit earlier in the week.”

Nabuli is the latest debutant among a handful of Fijians in the Wallabies squad and when asked why it is that Fijian wingers seem to be spread across the world, Sio piped up.

“You’ve just got to look at him - size, speed, power,” he said.

“Why wouldn’t you want that as part of your team?

“I think the Fijians in terms of Pacific nations have always had that great blend of the size, power and strength and they’re really starting to benefit from that in their sevens program as well.”

Nabuli has found some confidence in the Wallabies setup, a growth that attack coach Stephen Larkham noticed had improved after his brief involvement in 2016.

"I think we had him in camp this time last year and he was pretty fresh," he said.

"His communication probably wasn’t where it needed to be and he was a bit unsure of himself but I think through the Super Rugby campaign, he’s played some really good rugby, improved his confidence and feels a lot more comfortable in the team environment."

After five years in Australia, Nabuli is used to living in Australia but Sio said there were a couple of cultural lessons they were trying to teach him, that will hopefully come in handy on Saturday.

“Eto’s been in Australia for quite a number of years now and he’s really assimilated and settled into Australian way of life,” he said.

“We’re trying to teach him a few Australian folk songs as well. Trying to get him the words to ‘True Blue’, which we sing after a win.”

The Wallabies take on Scotland on Saturday, kicking off at 3pm AEST LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via RADIO. Buy tickets here.