These two Fijians might be the fighting force to fire West Wales Raiders forward. They’ve overcome personal atrocities and shown solid mettle in their service with the British Army, all worthwhile experience to assist with the League 1 strugglers’ war of attrition.
Much like compatriot and fellow serviceman Ratu Naulago, whose rapid assault on Super League with Hull FC has gathered plenty of plaudits, Emosi Nadauabale and Robert Matamosi are starting their mission to establish themselves in the sport.
The Raiders drafted in the pair mid-way through the 2019 performance, after resilient performances for the Army Rugby League side in a 32-39 victory over Keighley Cougars reserves last March. Since then, winger Matamosi has featured five times for the club, one more centre partner Nadaubale, and has crossed for three tries.
“We joined last year and we’ve really enjoyed it,” Matamosi told Total Rugby League. “I’ve been enjoying playing the game again because back in Fiji I loved to play Rugby League.
“Me and Emosi are together in the 9 Regiment RLC and we didn’t know each other before we moved to the UK. There is quite a few Fijians in our regiment and we have become great friends.”
That closeness between the two has culminated in a solid pairing on the right flank for West Wales Raiders, one that was forged at the 2019 Army Tri-Nations in Australia where the British Army lost 32-24 in the final to the hosts.
And while Matamosi has the 13-man code ingrained into his DNA, Nadaubale was a union player and only played his first game of Rugby League in the UK. But the two do have an agricultural background in common, the most frequent occupation in Fiji, and a desire for better opportunities in heading for the UK.
Sadly for Naudabale, in particular, that didn’t come without personal obstacles. His siblings were all similarly eager to join the British Army and had to stick together as a unit when they lost their mum last year – six years after their father also passed away.
“I came over in 2017 and joined the Army,” explained Nadaubale, who has also toured Cyprus on service, alongside Matamosi.
“The Army gives us a great opportunity to come over and work because we don’t have that in Fiji and we can join easily because it’s a Commonwealth country.
“I always dreamed of joining the Army and my brother and sister joined up and my two younger brothers have since. There’s five of us together here. One of my younger brothers is in the same regiment, as well.
“My dad passed away seven years ago and my mum passed away last year. She came over on a visitors’ Visa. She was a proud mum. She came to see three games when she was here. I’m really happy that she got to see all that and see us join the Army.
“In Fiji, I lived on a farm. That was our only source of income. After my education, I went back to look after my younger brothers and I got them through college and helped my mum. Look at us now.”
A focus on education has been intrinsic to the lives and respective journeys of the pair, which has translated into respectable progress in the early stages of their professional Rugby League careers.
But clearly Matamosi has prioritised his venture on British shores, and his playing contract with West Wales, delaying the final stages of a potentially lucrative university degree on the Pacific Island.
“I was studying a degree back in Fiji, in architecture,” he added. “I put it on hold because I wanted to come and experience life in the UK. When I go back I have another year of my degree left.
“My family were all farmers, like Emosi’s, I wanted to go and try to do something better and the Army was a good way to do that. Now I am playing Rugby League professionally and I am very happy with my decision.
“The Army prepared us well because we played a lot of rugby. We did a lot of training and it was very physical.”
The physical demands of serving in the military will no doubt pay dividends for the outside-backs, as West Wales look to build from a 2018 season that saw them register a solitary victory.
Two losses from two, before the COVID-19 outbreak, have seen that already ship 80 points, but the pair are optimistic they can overturn their early season woes, under the stewardship of former Toulouse Olympique and France assistant Aaron Wood.
And the duo have equal optimistic that they emulate the career trajectory of Hull FC flier Naulago but, for now, their focus lies on helping their new Rugby League regiment, the West Wales Raiders.
“With West Wales, you have to be prepared to get stuck in because we are having a tough time,” said Naudaubale. “We are much more of a family club now and we’re starting to get a lot more fans.#
“I think we have improved this year, with a new coach, and hopefully we can start winning more games after the season starts again.
“Hopefully we can play well and follow Ratu Naulago into the sport. We played for the Army Sevens together.
“He gives us all hope that we can make the grade professionally. I’ve been looking up to him. I would love to do what he’s done.”