In 2004, a year after Nonu made his All Blacks debut, then NZ Assistant Coach, Wayne Smith remarked glowingly about his array of skills, all in contrary to others who only saw him as all brawn and power vs deftness and subtlety.
"You'd be surprised if you saw his skill level. We see him as a runner at the moment because he's good at it. But his kicking is outstanding, which surprises me. He said he's never kicked in a game but the quality of his kicking with his right foot is outstanding. He's a highly skilled player and quite a handful."
Nonu himself remarked that he never had to kick because all his previous coaches relied on other players in the team to do it instead.
Playing down his ability following a cameo appearance against the Wallabies "Hopefully I can try and work on my kicking. I've said it before, I can't kick for s..t, but hopefully in the next two weeks I can try and work on it." he said.
After a few topsy-turvy years for NZ – 2008 was a breakthrough year for him – becoming a mainstay in NZ's backline and forging a lethal trio combination with Dan Carter and Conrad Smith.
By 2009 the kicking landscape had changed and with one coaching eye on Rugby World Cup 2011, it was time to unearth that work-in-progress kicking game – with the help of kicking specialist Mick 'the Kick' Byrne – that would make the team a more dangerous threat across the park.
Wayne Smith reaffirming his belief in Nonu "Ma'a has the capacity to kick and used the kick a bit more often in the Super 14 game, and often at the right time,
"So it is something we are aware of.
"We got through last year with a certain style of play. But we could be more dangerous with a more varied set of skills.
"So we are definitely working at that. We are confident Ma'a is coming on in that area"
Here we are, at the end of 2013 and Nonu's excellent kicking game is now widely penned, acknowledged and respected, despite the early doubters. This video highlights some of Nonu's kicking development and 'outstanding' skill which Smith saw in him almost a decade ago.