South Sydney Rabbitohs co-owner Russell Crowe has hit out against the Roosters in frustration after the defection of teen sensation Joseph Suaalii to their bitter rivals.
The 17-year-old was at the centre of a messy tug-of-war between fierce rivals the Rabbitohs and Roosters, before opting to join the latter.
Suaalii is regarded as the most hyped teenager in Australian sport and was at one point contracted to Crowe's Rabbitohs.
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The Bunnies offered him a contract extension worth $1.7 million but the club baulked at numerous get-out clauses that Suaalii's team insisted be inserted into his contract, and the Roosters pounced - signing the year 12 student from Sydney's King's School on a two-year deal.
Crowe says the teen's defection has left a bad taste in his mouth and is confused why he turned his back on the Rabbitohs for the Roosters - whose offer he says was similar to South Sydney's.
“Does it hurt? It’s a little perplexing, shall we say,” Crowe told The Sydney Morning Herald.
“I just hope Joseph is in a place where he’s comfortable and where he can play his best football.
“I think he’s a good kid. We’re not quite sure what the difference is between our dollars and somebody else’s dollars, because theoretically the figures are the same. Who knows?”
When asked about the fact many league experts have the Rabbitohs as competition favourites this season, Crowe's grievances with the Roosters - who many NRL fans claim operate under a 'salary sombrero' - were apparent.
“For a start, we work to the salary cap, unlike other people who we won’t discuss. Those blokes who keep plucking magic players out of the sky. What’s the joke: it’s not a cap, it’s a sombrero, isn’t it?”
Suaalii's family visited Crowe's farm
Crowe says he invited Suaalii and his family up to his farm on the NSW north coast when the Rabbitohs were in the process of negotiating a deal with the teen.
However, the Hollywood A-lister says he never involves himself in negotiations with players, and the meeting with Suaalii was merely to discuss the culture at the club.
“Met his mum and sister, they came up to the farm. But there’s a complete misunderstanding with what I do at the club.
“I have never negotiated a contract with the player at any time. The questions I ask are more about culture.
“They’re the conversations I have with players. When it comes down to the deal-making, I don’t have anything to do with it.”
Suaalii fronted the media for the first time as a Roosters player this week, declaring himself ready to make his NRL debut.
Currently the NRL is considering a request from the Roosters to allow Suaalii to play before his 18th birthday in August but the hulking teen already looks the part of a first-grader.
Should the NRL grant the exemption as expected, it's likely Suaalii could make his debut mid-season.
"Yeah, I'd be ready. As an athlete you kind of have to be, you want to be ready," he said.
"I've got a lot of stuff that I need to work on before I get to that point but if I do get a chance to make my debut, it would be a childhood dream to go and play for the Roosters and make my NRL debut."
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