'Ready to play': Calls grow for rule change around teen 'freak'

Australian Associated Press
·3-min read
Pictured here, teen star Joseph Suaalii after signing with the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
Joseph Suaalii with Wayne Bennett and John Sutton at South Sydney. Image: South Sydney Rabbitohs

Having made his own NRL debut as a teenager, Mitch Moses is convinced the league should rewrite the rules to keep 16-year-old "freak" Joseph Suaalii in the code.

ARLC chairman Peter V'landys is looking to grant South Sydney a special exemption to allow Suaalii, who only turns 17 on Saturday, to play first-grade for the Rabbitohs next season.

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For the last decade players have been outlawed from starting their NRL careers before their 18th birthday and Phil Gould for one is adamant the rule protecting youngsters must remain.

"I wouldn't like them to make an exception here. I don't think it's a good rule to change. I really don't," Gould told Nine's 100% Footy.

"I think that's contrary to what we're trying to do in managing the expectations, the money for our development players and just where they go to.

"I know he's an exceptional kid at that age but other kids catch up pretty quickly.

But many, including V'landys, believe throwing Suaalii into the NRL won't amount to a 'boys against men' scenario.

Considering the young gun weighs in at 96kg and stands a whopping 196cm tall, it's hard to argue.

Moses, too, has no concerns about Suaalii handling himself, having seen the sporting super talent first-hand last year.

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Suaalii was turning out for the King's School's First XV against Moses' cousin's team Joeys.

"That kid's a freak," Moses said on Tuesday, having himself debuted at 19 for Wests Tigers in 2014.

"I think he'd probably be ready to play pretty soon.

"This kid's a bit different, to be honest, so I think he'd be ready to play next year.

Seen here, Eels playmaker Mitchell Moses is fine with the NRL to change rules around Joseph Suaalii.
Mitchell Moses is confident Joseph Suaalii would be ready to play NRL in 2021. Pic: Getty

"If he's got the right people around him to look after him and obviously if the club looks after him very well, with all his loads and things like that, he should be fine.

"But every case will be different with how they monitor it."

Rugby Australia had been confident of luring Suaalii to the NSW Waratahs, trying to entice him with a reported $3 million, three-year offer and the chance to represent Australia at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

But South Sydney's co-owner and Hollywood heavyweight Russell Crowe is said to have won Suaalii over.