Polota-Nau Powers Into 2013
by Brendan Bradford –
Whether he’s playing for Australia in a Bledisloe Cup match at a sold out Eden Park or for his beloved Two Blues at Merrylands, you know Tatafu Polota-Nau will be going hell for leather and damn the consequences. The 27-year old hooker doesn’t know any other way to play.
“Every opportunity of rugby I get, I go full on and hard because I know it could end sometime soon,” he says.
“You just want to make the most of it and not have any regrets.”
Polota-Nau’s raw on-field aggression belies a keen intellect and a vast array of interests spanning from his degree in IT to learning other languages (he wowed the rugby world in Argentina last year by opening a press conference with a one minute spiel in Spanish. He did the same thing in Japan in 2009 and can even converse in Tongan).
At the moment though, he is is firmly focused on getting through a gruelling preseason regime under new Waratahs coach Michael Cheika ahead of the 2013 Super Rugby campaign.
“This was my first week back and it was pretty tough,” he says.
“I’m definitely feeling the pain but it’s worth it in the long run, so I’m happy to go through it.”
He hasn’t been hurting alone either. Over the past few months, it’s been a common sight to see members of the Waratahs coaching and support staff – Cheika included – getting involved in fitness sessions alongside the players.
“Some of the staff got involved in our running session last Saturday, which was great,” says Polota-Nau.
“Even though I was hurting, it was good to see everyone pushing each other and striving for perfection. That’s where we’re aiming, both us and management.”
After a disappointing 2012 season, there’s a renewed vitality at Moore Park that the Waratahs are hoping spills over into the fans.
“We realise that we haven’t connected the way we should have over the last few years with the people we represent,” says Michael Cheika.
“That’s just as much a part of it as footy. When you’ve got that clear identity, when you’re playing for someone, it makes such a difference.”
“We’re representing our state, right from here to Broken Hill. It’s all about earning the right to get the privileges that we want and one of those is the fans, so hopefully if we can do our stuff on the field, the fans will have no choice but to follow.”
With several high-profile new recruits in Michael Hooper and Israel Folau and Cheika’s known preference for running rugby, Waratahs fans ought to be excited by the approaching season.
“Hooper had a stellar season last year and he’ll only get better,” says Polota-Nau.
“Folau has worked in several franchises where professionalism is paramount and he trains like every session is his last. He’s not just a fan favourite, he’s a player favourite too and just such a unique talent.”
While he’s happy with the new recruits at the Waratahs, Polota-Nau remains sceptical of their club rugby connections.
“It’s good for him (Hooper) to get back to his good old Manly roots, but I tell him that he should get better grass roots over at Parramatta,” he jokes, adding that he might need to have a quiet word with Folau about joining the Two Blues who enjoyed an incredibly successful 2012 season in which they made their first finals appearance in 21 years.
A Western Sydney boy, “Taf” maintains strong connections to the local community, is on the Board of Directors at Parramatta and is confident that the future is bright for the Two Blues and rugby in general in the area.
“I was thrilled for the guys and hopefully now they’ve got a taste for it, it will become a bit of an addiction to keep that standard and if they keep putting their hands up week in, week out, they could be in line to represent their state,” he says.
Although Super Rugby and Representative commitments have limited his availability for Parramatta over the last few years, Polota-Nau will never forget the place where it all began.
“There’s nothing I’d love more than to put on the Two Blues jersey and really have fun with the guys that I grew up with, because at the end of the day it’s about the enjoyment factor,” he says.
With the British and Irish Lions touring Australia in June and Parramatta on the up, 2013 promises to be a busy year for Polota-Nau. Before or all that though, there’s the small matter of another two weeks (“it’ll probably feel like two months”) of fitness and conditioning before the Waratahs begin their trial matches. That means a lot more laps of the stairs at South Coogee.
“I’m sick of seeing them, but it’s gotta be done.”