Joseph Suaalii seals move to rugby union in $1.6 million bombshell

The Sydney Roosters youngster is reportedly on the verge of a $1.6 million deal with Rugby Australia.

Joseph Suaalii.
Joseph Suaalii is reportedly nearing a $1.6 million deal to leave the Sydney Roosters and switch to rugby union. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Joseph Suaalii has signed a $1.6 million deal with Rugby Australia in a bombshell coup for Eddie Jones and the Wallabies. News Corp reported on Friday that RA has offered the 19-year-old a $1.6 million deal for 2025 in what marks the most significant signing the struggling code has pulled off in years.

On Saturday the news was confirmed, with Suaalii to link up with the NSW Waratahs at the end of the 2024 season when his deal with the Sydney Roosters ends. Suaalii has made no secret of his desire to play fullback at the Roosters, but has been made to bide his time on the wing and in the centres due to presence of NSW and Australia captain James Tedesco - who recently extended his deal at the club until the end of 2015.

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Faced with a potential three-year wait at the Roosters to play his preferred position, speculation had bubbled for weeks that Suaalii could explore alternative options. The Roosters reportedly cautioned him against doing so, understanding the appeal of playing for the Wallabies but posing the question as to which domestic league his long-term future would be better served by - the NRL or Super Rugby.

On Friday, NRL reporter Andrew Webster told SEN radio that a deal for Suaalii to switch codes for the 2025 season was 'all but done', although the Roosters remained determined to keep the talented teenager in Sydney.

“I got a call from our chief rugby reporter Georgina Robinson, and she said that there has been talk everywhere of a deal being all but done from 25’ onwards for Joseph Suaalii to go to the Wallabies,” Webster said. “That’s when the British and Irish Lions will be out here, and they’ve obviously got the World Cup here in Australia in 2027.

“I have to say when I spoke to the Roosters to follow up… there was a bit of sort of quiet resignation that it may be the case. Nothing has been said to them about it, they’re dealing with (agent) Isaac Moses who is a very tricky manager to deal with. There’s just sort of a sense that it may be the case, I don’t know if it’s necessarily the right thing for Suaalii.”

Webster also reported that Roosters staff had asked him whether or not he truly sees his future, outside of Wallabies representation, being played in a NSW Waratahs jersey. “I think a lot of people at the Roosters have been telling Suaalii, ‘Look be very careful with your decision to go, because there’s always playing for the Wallabies but do you want to be playing for the Waratahs?" he said. "No disrespect to the Waratahs or Super Rugby but is that where you see yourself playing week in and week out?”

Later on Friday, further reports emerged suggesting Suaalii was on the brink of signing a $1.6 million deal with Rugby Australia. Nine News reporter Danny Weidler said though the deal was all but signed, the Roosters were still in the picture. “They still fear a last minute play from Nick Politis,” Weidler said.

Quizzed about the signing at a Rugby Australia luncheon on Friday, Wallabies coach Jones said he was only concerned with his team's 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."

Joseph Suaalii makes a tackle against South Sydney.
The Roosters are hoping they can find a way to keep Joseph Suaalii at the club. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Sydney Roosters in a jam over Tedesco, Suaalii contracts

Fitting Suaalii, Tedesco and New Zealand international Joseph Manu under the salary cap is another question that had been posed for the Roosters. Suaalii has also made no secret of his desire to play in Tedesco's fullback position long-term, further complicating matters.

Suaalii's manager Moses poured more fuel onto the fire this week after reportedly renewing his accreditation with Rugby Australia. Moses lost his accreditation with both RA and the NRL in the wake of the Parramatta Eels salary cap scandal.

The Daily Telegraph reported that Moses' bid to have his accreditation reinstated by RA had been approved, which some viewed as a move centred around Suaalii's future. Moses brushed off suggestions it had anything to do with the 19-year-old NRL star, and everything to do with the fact that he manages a number of Wallabies players.

Jones had already expressed his public interest in bringing back some of the NRL's best and brightest players to the 15-a-side game. Players like Manly's Tolu Koula, Rabbitohs superstar Cam Murray and Suaalii all have rugby union pedigree having played for their respective high schools, and have been linked with big-money returns to the code.

League great Laurie Daley recently suggested that Tedesco's extension at the Roosters was a sign the NRL powerhouse was resigned to losing Suaalii when his deal expires at the end of the 2024 season. “I don’t think Suaalii will be there,” Daley said about Suaalii on Sky Sports Radio after discussing Tedesco's extension at the Roosters. “I think this is a sign that the Roosters think they’ll lose him as well.”

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