SPORTS |

The Med­i­cal Joker who be­came the Most Wanted

mailife - - Contents - Filipo Nakosi

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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Fiji

© PressReader. All rights reserved.