Mark Nawaqanitawase (Nah-WANG-gah-KNEE-tah-WAH-zay) is an incredibly talented young winger with an instinctive style. Junior Wallabies coach Jason Gilmore encapsulated Nawaqanitawase’s talent in 2020 when he said, "He's awesome under the high ball, he's really good off the ground, he's very powerful. He's got a really good set of hands; he reads the game really well and he's got a big powerful body that he can use to beat defenders one-on-one and make good tackles in that wide channel."
A humble young man of Fijian origin, Nawaqanitwase played rugby league as a boy although his overall sporting preference was for basketball. He played his first rugby at centre in the U11s at St Patrick’s College Strathfield. In 2016, Anthony Calavassy, the College’s rugby coach heard a rumour that Nawaqanitawase was only going to play basketball that year. Calavassy cornered Nawaqanitawase's mum Fiona at a parent-teacher evening and asked if the rumour was true? "Fiona said, 'I’ll speak to him' and a couple of weeks later he approached me and said he'd changed his mind and wanted to play. I said, 'we've already started so you'll have to start in the 2nd XV but within a matter of half a game he was scoring tries at will and running everyone ragged so I said, 'ah okay, we’ll keep him for the [1sts]'." Calavassy recalled.
Nawaqanitawase played three years in the 1st XV, the first at fullback which kept the 14-year-old out of the defensive frontline. He was not selected for a single representative side during his school years and could easily have drifted off into the ether had it not been for a call made by Australian women's 7s coach and St Pat's parent John Manenti, one that put Nawaqanitawase on the Waratahs' radar. Manenti called Waratahs' Academy coach Shannon Fraser and emailed some footage of Nawaqanitawase playing centre. "He was a big body, tall, athletic looking, looked like he had a lot of potential but looked like he was just little bit out of position," Fraser said. "The things he was doing in broken play, though, with a little bit of space, we knew there was something there." Just prior to his final year exams, Fraser called Nawaqanitawase with an offer to come and train for free at the Waratahs. There was only one catch, no ‘schoolies’. Nawaqanitawase reveled in the work and after just a few months of a four-day-per-week program, his all-round game and fitness had come along in leaps and bounds. Fraser then called Junior Wallabies coach Jason Gilmore, who later took the exciting young winger to Argentina for the U20s World Championship. "It was a no-brainer to give him a go," Gilmore recalled.
Nawaqanitawase went on to secure a Waratah contract and, just 14 months after Fraser’s call to Gilmore, played his first game of Super Rugby, against the Crusaders in Christchurch. In 2022, after starting the Super Rugby season on the bench, Nawaqanitawase “was the eye-catching gloss” to an impressive Australia ‘A’ win in Tokyo before he finished the year as “an unearthed diamond” on the end of Australia's backline after he stormed onto the international scene during the Spring Tour.
Following a “busy” debut against Italy in Florence, Nawaqanitawase was arguably the Wallabies’ best in their narrow loss to Ireland. However, it was his second half, try-scoring double, one that helped Australia snatch victory from the jaws of defeat against Wales, that set tongues wagging. Tim Horan later said, “The big thing now for Mark is that he feels he belongs in a gold jersey. That usually takes probably five or 10 Test matches, he’s done it in two or three. The big challenge for Mark now is to go back to the Waratahs after this tour, take what he’s learned from this tour and actually step up again.”
2019 Represented the Junior Wallabies in the Oceania Championship and at the 12th World Rugby U20s World Championship in Argentina.
2022 Represented Australia Men’s 7s at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games where the side lost the Bronze medal match to New Zealand. Nawaqanitawase won his first Test cap on the left wing in the 27-28 loss to Italy and was retained in the number 11 jersey for the internationals against Ireland and Wales.