Wallabies coach Eddie Jones dodges questions on Joseph Suaalii after reports of $1.6m deal
Elite rugby talent Suaalii re-signs with NRL’s Roosters through to 2024
Wallabies coach Eddie Jones has dodged questions about Joseph Suaalii amid reports Rugby Australia has lured the rugby league star to the 15-man code from 2025 on a $1.6m contract. An elite rugby talent in his junior years, Suaalii re-signed with the NRL’s Sydney Roosters through to 2024 earlier this month after starring for Samoa during last year’s Rugby League World Cup in England.
Suaalii’s ambitions for fullback position in doubt
However, the 19-year-old has designs on playing fullback long-term and is currently being kept out of the position by James Tedesco, the World Cup-winning Australian captain and himself one of the brightest stars in the NRL. The Roosters’ decision to re-sign Tedesco through to 2025 last week has put Suaalii’s fullback hopes further in doubt. News Corp has reported that Roosters insiders are now “resigned to losing the talented outside back.”
Suaalii’s background in rugby
Suaalii was a schoolboys rugby star at The King’s School in Parramatta while a part of the Rabbitohs’ Harold Matthews Cup side, representing the GPS 1st XV, as well as the NSW Schoolboys and Australian under-18s Sevens rugby side. He met with former Wallabies coach Dave Rennie before opting to begin his professional career in league.
Possible move to Wallabies and rugby union
In doing so, he sensationally crossed the famous Anzac Road divide, defecting from South Sydney to sign with their arch-rivals the Sydney Roosters in November 2020, reportedly after the cashed-up NRL club offered ‘get out’ clauses in his contract that gave him the freedom to switch codes if he desired. Those alleged clauses may now backfire on the Roosters, as the Wallabies reportedly table a deal for Suaalii that will see him join the Wallabies for the 2025 season and put him in the frame to play the British & Irish Lions on that year’s tour of Australia. An additional incentive to join the Wallabies would be to play a home World Cup in 2027.
‘Once in 10, 15, 20 year player’ says former Australian Sevens assistant coach
“He’s got the ability to jump between sevens and XVs,” said Hoiles, a former assistant coach with the Australian Sevens team. “He did a lot of sevens training only a couple of years ago while he was at The King’s School. He was actually a year 11 boy training with the Aussie sevens – he was good enough to play in that team as a 16-year-old. “So he’s a once in a sort of 10, 15, 20 year player and I’m happy rugby’s going for him.”
Rugby Australia bids for significant signing
On Friday, News Corp reported RA had made its move with what would be the most significant signing the struggling code has pulled off in years. New Wallabies coach Eddie Jones is a lifelong rugby league fan. In his first stint as Wallabies coach (2001-05) he took Australia to the 2003 World Cup final with a team featuring former NRL stars Mat Rogers, Wendell Sailor and Lote Tuqiri. And in 2005, Jones went within a whisker of signing league’s greatest player Andrew Johns to the 15-man game.
Jones focuses only on immediate future
After leading England to its series defeat of the Wallabies last year, Jones immediately went into a training programme with Craig Bellamy at the Melbourne Storm. But quizzed about the signing at a Rugby Australia luncheon on Friday, the famously wily Jones said he was only concerned with the Wallabies’ immediate future. “The only thing I’m worried about is this World Cup,” he said. “I’ve got no thought pattern past October 28. Zero. And I can’t afford to.”
Jones’ strategic plans for player development
But back in January, Jones hinted the raids on NRL ranks were coming. “We always want to develop players in rugby first. That’s the No 1 priority,” Jones forewarned. “No 2 is to get back players who were lost initially from rugby to rugby league due to the financial inducements that league are able to give the players. We want to get players back who are lost. “Thirdly, at the right time, is there an opportunity to secure some talent we don’t have in rugby from league? I think there is a strategic plan that needs to be put in place but the first thing is to retain the talent we do have. “I’m sure the allure of playing in a home Rugby World Cup might be something to attract them back.”