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03.10.2018 16:32
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Its not often you see a regular Test player picking up the rubbish at a suburban ground, running the touchline at lower-grade matches and happily putting up his hand on club game day to do all those thankless jobs that so many others readily walk away from.Then again Tatafu Polota-Nau is a special character, and out in Sydneys gritty western suburbs, where rugby struggles to keep a firm foothold, the longtime Wallabies hooker is for good reason regarded as a rare gem.Same, too, at the Waratahs, where over 12 seasons he has been the most unselfish of servants, often to the detriment of his own body and mind -- constantly agreeing to play even when appearing seriously injured.His problem with concussion is not surprising considering Polota-Naus kamikaze tackling style, where with a low, fearless leap at his opponents he has constantly succeeded in thwarting dangerous midfield attacks. Such a courageous approach has taken its toll as personal safety has often been ignored by a player who has always placed the welfare of the team ahead of himself.Then again, few have been more committed to the grassroots, provincial and international rugby cause.Unfortunately, it appears one of those tight links is about to be loosened, as Polota-Naus teammates believe he has probably played his last game for the Waratahs. The most likely scenario is that he will join the mass exodus of Australian players heading overseas next season, adding further to the considerable brain-drain that the Australian Super Rugby provincial ranks is about to suffer.One hopes the Waratahs do all they can to retain the 30-year-old Polota-Nau as such humble and all-embracing rugby ambassadors are crucial to the wellbeing of a code that is under constant threat of losing its identity, especially at suburban level.What has set Polota-Nau apart is his deep appreciation of where he has emerged from.Unlike some professional players, who are more attuned to taking rather than giving, Polota-Nau, after growing up near Parramatta and learning the game in the area, has never forgotten his roots, realising the district football club scene can be so important to the upbringing and character of a youngster.Polota-Nau knew hardly anything about the game when he was 16. That changed when rugby-mad teacher Paul Ridgeway transferred to his school. Ridgeway wanted to start a rugby team at Granville South High School, sighted the well-built Polota-Nau, who at that time was completely focused on his studies, and said: Youll do.Within two years of his first game, Polota-Nau was co-captain of the Australian Schoolboys team. Another two years and he was named the International Rugby Boards Under-21 Player of the Year, and was in the Australia Test team.A decade on, he has seen the world as a consistent member of Wallabies line-ups; he now boasts 64 Test caps, which should be added to during the coming Rugby Championship, but as importantly he has never got ahead of himself.His local club -- Parramatta -- which he joined at Colts level is not one of the most fashionable in the Sydney premiership, and for years it has relied on a committed volunteer base to remain viable. There have been difficult financial times, but those in charge at Parramatta have stuck solid and continue to give the code an identity in a rugby league dominant environment.As much as club figureheads are important, so, too, are good, honest workers, and Polota-Nau has embraced that ethos.He has been on the Parramatta club board for the past five years, and whenever representative responsibilities do not conflict he heads out to their home ground in Merrylands on game day to help out wherever he is wanted. He also mentors players, goes through club match videos so that he can provide guidance to clubmates from various grades, and has helped out in coaching the clubs womens team.Such unselfishness was again on show last weekend. Even though he had played for the Waratahs against the Blues in Auckland on Friday night, that did not deter him from getting the first flight out of New Zealand on Saturday morning so that he could get back in time for Parramattas final round match.His trip was kept relatively quiet, with his Parramatta clubmates only hearing shortly before the match against Sydney University that he may soon be joining them.Polota-Nau came off the bench at the University No. 2 ground and played the final 25 minutes as a blindside breakaway. Not his customary position, but typical of Polota-Nau who has often filled in where most needed. In the past he has even been sighted in the Parramatta centres.Parramatta officials told ESPN that Polota-Nau after the Uni game made a point of telling the players, who had just been beaten by 23 points to finish the season in 10th spot on the Sydney Shute Shield ladder, how proud he was to wear the club colours, and that it was an honour to be one of their teammates.The game really needs more like Polota-Nau in its ranks. Such admirable players inspire, are exemplary role models, and remind all about what is good about grassroots rugby. He deserves every accolade. Blake Snell Jersey . Listen to the game live on TSN Radio 1050 at 7pm et. The Raptors traded Rudy Gay, Quincy Acy and Aaron Gray to the Sacramento Kings on Monday, in exchange for Greivis Vasquez, John Salmons, Patrick Patterson and Chuck Hayes. Carlos Gomez Jersey . 9. 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