Joseph Suaalii cops brutal reality check amid Roosters fullback drama

·4-min read
Roosters captain James Tedesco could be central to the future of teen prodigy Joseph Suaalii at the club. Pic: AAP
Roosters captain James Tedesco could be central to the future of teen prodigy Joseph Suaalii at the club. Pic: AAP

Rugby league icons Paul Gallen and Phil Gould have weighed in on the debate around young gun Joseph Suaalii, amid suggestions he could leave the Roosters if the club does not play the 19-year-old at fullback.

Suaalii's NRL future has been the subject of intense speculation in recent weeks, with reports Rugby Australia (RA) could be interested in luring the prodigy back to the 15-man game where he made a name for himself at The King's School in Sydney.

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One of Suaalii's advisors has also made the bombshell claim that the Roosters will have to offload current fullback and captain James Tedesco, if they wish to retain Suaalii.

Steve Nateski, a South Sydney fan who ensured the teenage prodigy landed at the Rabbitohs during his school rugby union days, acted as an advisor to Suaalii and his family during much of the player's teenage years.

Referring to the young superstar as the 'Michael Jordan of the NRL', Nateski suggested the Roosters will need to move Tedesco on in the near future, if they're to have any hope of keeping Suaalii.

"Tedesco is a once-in-a-generation player, but Joseph is once in a lifetime. He is going to be the Michael Jordan of the NRL," Nateski told the Sydney Morning Herald.

"No player, not Greg Inglis, not Izzy Folau, no one has had the impact of Joey in his first 18 games — and he is a fullback and he wants to be a fullback.

"I think the Roosters will need to move Teddy on next year. The price if they don't will be Joey. He is a fullback and a superstar."

Seen here, Joseph Suaalii running with the ball for the Roosters during an NRL game against the Melbourne Storm.
Joseph Suaalii runs with the ball for the Roosters during an NRL game against the Melbourne Storm. Pic: Getty

Suaalii has had an incredible season with the Roosters and has been touted as a representative player in waiting after being part of the extended New South Wales Origin squad.

However, Gallen insisted it was crazy to suggest that the 19-year-old was ready to supplant Tedesco - who is also the NSW and Australia fullback - as the new No.1 at the Tri Colours.

"You wouldn't be putting anyone in front of Tedesco at the moment or in the next year or two," Gallen said on Nine's 100% Footy.

"He is unbelievable."

Tedesco is a two-time premiership winner with the Roosters and remains one of the best fullbacks in the game.

However, fitting the Blues captain into the salary cap with Suaalii and gun centre Joseph Manu is set to be a huge challenge facing the Roosters.

Suaalii has a contract with the club until the end of the current season, with player options in his favour for 2023 and 2024.

Phil Gould fears Joseph Suaalii will be lost to NRL

Gould argued that if it came down to a decision based purely on money for Suaalii, he doesn't see how the NRL will be able to compete against the big bucks on offer in rugby union.

"I don't think there's any chance in the world that Suaalii is going to play out his career at the Roosters ... I don't think there's any chance," Phil Gould said on 100% Footy.

"I think he could go to another code.

"If money is going to be the governing thing here, he won't be playing rugby league."

RA is reportedly ready to dangle a $10 million carrot Suaalii's way, with suggestions he could represent the Wallabies at the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Pictured here, Roosters young gun Joseph Suaalii gets tackled against Brisbane in the NRL.
Roosters young gun Joseph Suaalii could find himself at the centre of a tug-of-war between league and rugby union. Pic: Getty

RA is also spruiking the 2025 British and Irish Lions tour and the Rugby World Cup in Australia in 2027, but Roosters coach Trent Robinson insists his club has the ability to make him one of their greats.

"I've seen there's been a bit of back and forth but Joey (Suaalii) is here next year. It's not a concern for us," Robinson said recently.

"Not because it (the interest) is not real, but because you create an environment that he loves walking into and wants to be a part of.

"We want him to want to be here and he definitely wants to be here. He's rare, I know that and that's why we are talking about him.

"Joey is always going to have a choice but we think we can provide a good life and footy career (for him).

"We love him and we think he can be a great player and a star in these colours."

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