Joseph Suaalii pursuit comes with contract twist for Rugby Australia

Joseph Suaalii confers with Sydney Roosters teammates during an NRL match.
Joseph Suaalii is coveted as a potential rugby union superstar, but the code faces a bitter battle to pry the 19-year-old away from the NRL. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

Good on rugby union for going on the front foot and declaring they are targeting rugby league's prime assets.

For the past 20 years, the game has been living under a rock in this country.

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The Wallabies have been a running joke and the Super Rugby competition so anonymous it could have been held in your backyard without you even knowing.

But there are signs of life. The game does have a pulse after all.

Australian sides this season chalked up victories over Kiwi teams in Super Rugby after years of rolling over and handing them the competition points without protest.

The Wallabies are still as trustworthy as a two-timing partner but they do sit second on the Rugby Championship table after an impressive win over the world champion Springboks before a full house at Adelaide Oval.

Beat South Africa again on Saturday night and double down by reclaiming the Bledisloe Cup against the vulnerable and under-siege All Blacks in September and rugby will be all the rage again.

Sensing it is now back at the weight rack, Rugby Australia is flexing its muscle to its main competition.

RA's interest in at least talking to the likes of elite rugby league talent Joseph Suaalii, Cameron Murray, Tom Trbojevic, Ryan Papenhuyzen and Latrell Mitchell is genuine.

This is not a clickbait story as some have suggested.

Suaalii is the main target, as much for his marketability as his playing ability.

The Wallabies don’t have a headline-grabbing superstar to sell the game.

The Roosters teenager is that.

Joseph Suaalii at centre of NRL, Rugby Australia stoush

Bullish RA boss Hamish McLennan told News Corp: "Why would Joseph want to be the king of one club and one code when he could be a legend of two codes?

"I'm in no doubt he'll make far more money out of rugby union.

"The international side of our game is in a different stratosphere. If he doesn’t play both codes, he'd be selling himself short."

McLennan's comments come with a fair spread of mayo but he's spot on about the money and not too far off the mark about the international exposure.

Joseph Suaalii is pictured at a Sydney Roosters training session.
Rugby Australia could fork out as much as $1 million per season for the services of Joseph Suaalii. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

And here’s the best part for Suaalii.

He can have his Gilbert and eat his Steeden too.

Only 19, Suaalii could make the switch to rugby in time for the 2024 Paris Olympics, stay around for the British and Irish Lions tour to Australia in '25, play at a home World Cup in '27 and return to rugby league in '28 at the ripe old age of … 24.

Throw in RA'S contract, which would sit at around $2m a season, and suddenly Suaalii and his minders have plenty to consider.

It may prove too hard to resist.

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