Rugby League

Canberra Raiders legend Ken Nagas eyes comeback in Auckland Nines

Talk about the ultimate Flash back story.

Flash is back: Ken Nagas, then and now.
Flash is back: Ken Nagas, then and now. Photo: Graham Tidy

Thirteen years after announcing his rugby league retirement in tears, Canberra's legendary winger Ken 'The Flash' Nagas has revealed he's aiming at a one-off comeback for the Raiders at this month's Auckland Nines.

"I haven't played in 12 years, so I should be fresh," the 41-year-old father of three said, grinning.

Ken Nagas in 2001.
Ken Nagas in 2001. 

But Nagas, who retired prematurely because of chronic knee injuries in 2002, assures this is no joke.

Inspired by watching NRL retirees Steve Menzies, 40, and Brad Fittler, 42, play in the inaugural Auckland Nines last year, Nagas has been training secretly in preparation.


The Raiders have also put him through a compulsory NRL fitness test and have submitted an application to the league to register him for the tournament.

"I just hope they don't see this as me or the Raiders treating the tournament as a slap-in-the-face," Nagas said. "Hopefully it can help with publicity for the tournament, but I'm taking it very seriously.

Legend: Ken Nagas playing for the Canberra Raiders in their 1994 premiership season.
Legend: Ken Nagas playing for the Canberra Raiders in their 1994 premiership season. 

"I think they'll embrace it, the feedback they got from Freddy [Fittler] and Beaver ]Menzies] last year, I didn't see a lot of backlash. The impact they had on the field wasn't a lot, but the fans love that sort of stuff because of the old school nostalgia, it added a bit of flavour to the tournament.

"What would be disappointing is if they overload it with ex-players coming back, that'd be a slap-in-the-face for the tournament. But I think a maximum one at each club would be a good thing."

When Nagas retired in mid-2002, he'd scored 59 tries in 142 matches across a 10-year career with the Raiders. He represented NSW and Australia and was a two-try hero in Canberra's 1994 grand final win.

But injuries cut his career short. At his retirement announcement, aged 29, a teary Nagas said: "I want to be able to walk around with my kids when I'm 40. I don't want to be in a wheelchair".

His eldest daughter, Brittany, is now 17.

"I remember saying that, now I'm 41 and looking like playing footy again," Nagas said.

"I knew I couldn't go on, I was busted. I didn't look after myself too well and it got to me, my knees. I think I'm looking after myself better now than when I was playing.

"Just because you're down and out, get back up dust yourself off and get back into it again. In a way hopefully I can set an example for young kids that no matter how old you are, what you look like, if you want to have a crack and you do the right things, then have a go."

Nagas works full-time with the Australian Federal Police as a victim liaison officer, but he's a fitness trainer with the Raiders Under 20s and will run water and messages for Raiders coach Ricky Stuart in the NRL this season.

Nagas scored a club-record six tries against Halifax in the 1997 World Club Challenge and was known for his trademark length-of-the-field tries. He says a 100m runaway try might be beyond him now, joking his one-off comeback contract with the Raiders will be "a pie and a can of Coke".

"I reckon if I can sprint 20m, then I'll be looking for support," Nagas said of the Nines, staring January 29.

"I always had it in mind since the tournament last year, so I maintained some fitness throughout the year. But I really knuckled down after the season and leading into Christmas, trying to cover as much as I could and watching what I ate.

"I had a fitness test I had to get through to the NRL in relation to where I was at, that was just before Christmas. That hurt me a bit, agility stuff around poles and that sort of stuff.

"I'm not nervous now, but once I get on the plane I think I will be because I haven't played in a while. The players these days are bigger, faster and stronger. I'll just have to see how I go."



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