The Medical Joker who became the Most Wanted
FILIPO Nakosi’s professional rugby career began with the Agen Club in France in 2014 when he became a medical joker (replacement) for a player who got injured halfway through the season. After only a few months he became a permanent player for the club, which signed him for two years. A couple of years down the line the richest club in the Top 14 competition in France, Toulon, have managed to sign him on for three years to join his younger brother Josua Tuisova Before he departed for Toulon this year, Agen placed another deal on the table – they have loaned him from Toulon for a year. When a rugby player is on loan, a player needs to play his destined club the full amount of the value of his contract for the year plus the player’s salary for the season. Only top players can be treated with this same sort of respect as far as club financials are concerned. Nakosi’s road to the international stage of club rugby is quite a feat, especially considering that he had played soccer his whole life before his final year in high school. He is not such a fast mover through the ranks as his younger brother and Olympian Josua Tuisova – on the other hand he tries to put a process into how he does things. Agen first made headlines years ago when they managed to lure the then world number one winger, Rupeni Caucau from renewing his lucrative Super 12 rugby contract with the Auckland Blues, sparking off the exodus of Pacific Island rugby union players to France in the early 2002-2003 season. The enigmatic winger, however, did not honour his contract well and he had to be released in 2010. Agen, a club that was founded in 1908, now competes in the second flight of French professional rugby, Pro D2. Nakosi told Mai Life: “It was 2015 I came in to relieve a Canadian player for Agen, and I was signed on full time after a few games because of what they saw in me,’’It was the big break Nakosi was looking for after being in New Zealand for just over three seasons. He was with Northland in the ITM Cup, where his acceleration and dazzling skills were picked up by the French Club scouts. But moving over to Agen was a huge ask for someone who had no international experience for his country, except for a brief stint in the abbreviated code in which Fiji players excelled.
Nakosi was lining up against the likes of Dan Carter, Joe Rokocoko and many other players who all had international experience. And he had only one season to prove himself to earn an official contract with Agen. “It was tough in the beginning, the language was different, the culture and the food and even the rugby,’’ Nakosi said. “I think what made me work the hardest was that I thought about the life I had left behind me in Fiji, of cutting sugar cane, fishing and farming to make ends meet. I wanted something better for me and my family.“Deep in me I always thought that if I am blessed with this God given talent then I must make good use of it to help look after my family.” Nakosi featured in Northland for three seasons, making the Auckland Blues Development team but unable to make headway onto the big stage. “But rugby in New Zealand is more interesting because it is skills based and very competitive. “On my way to the top, I just developed a positive attitude as I was taught by my parents – that if you are aiming to achieve something great then the road will be full of challenges and you will be tested all the way.” It’s hard to imagine that Nakosi grew up playing soccer and only began competitive rugby in his final year in high school. “I played in a few 7s tournaments here at home for our village club when I was in about Form 6 but played mostly soccer in high school. It wasn’t until I got a rugby scholarship to Ratu Navula School in Nadi, that I began to play rugby competitively and learn the game properly. Thus the opportunity to play overseas was not taken lightly by Nakosi. “This is a job, only difference is that we have to look after our body and our mind so that we can play week in and out. “Sometimes it is hard being away from friends and family. I have had to get used to the absence of my parents, who are always telling me do this and that or don’t do this and that, which always guides me,’’ Nakosi said fondly. He said he is a very different person today from the little boy that left for New Zealand in 2015. “I am a better person now, I have learnt to manage my life and run things on my own including my finances.” Nakosi said the impact of his new professional rugby career has also been huge on his family back home. “Things are different now, from what we had before and what we have now.” First thing he did was buy a house and is now eyeing another property to buy and rent out. Nakosi fully understands that life after rugby is what one must be prepared for. He was an obvious stand out at club level in New Zealand, having been part his club’s perfect record in three seasons. Looking into his background it is no surprise that the stocky but fleet footed winger is the way he is. “We must keep working hard on our game to keep earning.” Nakosi said many young players who take up contracts are often misled early in their career because they can’t handle the culture shock or how to manage their money. “I always used the example of Flying Fijian captain Akapusi Qera as how Fijian players should hold themselves. He has been a good figurehead for me from when I first came to Europe. “I can only advise incoming young Fijian players that pro rugby is not easy, but it works if you put in the hard work and be humble enough to accept advice. “I even use my younger brother’s progress to help motivate me and give me strength, and my dream is to one day play alongside him in the Fiji 15s team.”
Filipo Nakosi walking the streets of Ba Town.
Nakosi with his younger brother Flying Fijian Josua ‘the bus’ Tuisova.
Nakosi with his proud mum Lusia.