Things were going pretty swimmingly for Frank-Paul Nuuausala; he was a premiership winner, a New Zealand international and was settled in his life at Bondi after seven successful years at the Roosters.
Alas, as his door in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney was unexpectedly closed, another opened in the Nation’s Capital, and with that, the chance to reunite Nuuausala with his best friend.
“It was tough to leave the Roosters,” Nuuausala said candidly. “I came to Sydney when I was just 18 and all I grew to know was the Roosters, so they became my family and the area became a home for me. It was tough to leave because I had been there for a long time and I’d like to think that I’m a pretty loyal person.
“But as they say, when one door closes, another one opens and now is the opportunity to start something fresh and build something special with the Raiders alongside my best friend Sia Soliola.”
Nuuausala and Soliola were childhood friends growing up in New Zealand. They opposed each other at a junior club level but grew to become close friends after playing in various district representative sides.
The closeness of their friendship deepened when Nuuausala migrated to Australia and joined Soliola at the Roosters in 2005. The pair, who has 17 New Zealand Test caps between them, then went onto play three seasons together at the tricolours before Soliola left to join St Helens in the English Super League.
“Sia and I have always been good mates since we were about eight years old in New Zealand,” Nuuausala said. “We used to play with and against each other as kids and over the years we really bonded and our friendship grew. He went to the Roosters first and I came over two years later and our friendship grew even more. He’s my best friend now.
“Playing with Sia is an unreal feeling; just the bond that we have and knowing that we have each other’s back no matter what is indescribable. Having him in the defensive line again will be awesome because he can really whack. People may have forgotten about Sia Soliola since he left for the English Super League but I guarantee you that people are soon going to remember how good he is. I believe he will put his stamp of authority onto the year.
“When I first came down to Canberra I moved straight in with Sia. He was a big reason in why I came to the club, but he wasn’t the only reason; I see this club building towards great success in the future and we’ll start this year with the aim of making the top eight. It’s easy to say that but we’ll look to work hard and prove people wrong with our actions.”
“As much as I wanted him to come to Canberra, as a friend I just wanted him to be happy first and foremost,” Soliola said. “I was over the moon when he told me he was going to sign with the Raiders and it’s great to see how happy he is here and how focused he is on success.”
In Soliola’s absence at the Roosters, Nuuausala went onto win the 2013 NRL Grand Final whilst Soliola capped off his five year stint with St Helens by scoring a try in their 2014 Grand Final triumph.
Whilst both were overjoyed with each other’s accomplishments, they shared slight feelings of discontent in the fact that they hadn’t walked the lap of honour side-by-side.
The pair had dreamt of winning a premiership together since they were kids and now they plan on making that dream a reality by rebuilding the Raiders and ultimately winning the club’s first premiership since 1994.
“It will be special to play with him again and even more special to finish our careers off with a premiership ring around our fingers,” said Nuuausala, who came off the interchange bench in New Zealand’s 2010 Four Nations victory.
“With the talent we have here I do believe that we can make a run for the championship if we continue to work hard and improve each year. It all comes with discipline on and off the field though and buying into the culture that we’re trying to create here.
“What I’ve achieved before coming here doesn’t mean anything now; I want to earn the respect of my new team mates, the coaching staff and the Raiders fans. That’s my priority; to play good footy for Canberra and earn my stripes here in green.”
“We didn’t come here to waste our time or the club’s time, we want success,” added Soliola. “It’s a new chapter for us and it would mean absolutely everything to win a premiership with Franky.
“There’s nobody more that I’d love to do a lap of honour with than Franky. I was proud of him that he won the premiership at the Roosters but a little bit disappointed that I wasn’t doing the lap of honour out there with him.
“We’ve come here to win premierships and we truly believe that it’s Canberra’s turn to win a premiership. We’ve got the potential and we’re heading in the right direction as a group.”
Author: Simon McGuinness I Twitter: @Simon_mcg1