Sydney Roosters chairman Nick Politis has revealed Joseph Suaalii is planning to return to the NRL in 2028. The 20-year-old signed with Rugby Australia earlier this year and will link up with the NSW Waratahs at the end of the 2024 NRL season.
The four-year deal, worth a reported $5 million, will see Suaalii aim to play for the Wallabies at the next Rugby World Cup in Australia in 2027. But according to Politis, the young phenom has informed him that he'll be back with the Roosters in 2028.
“Joseph is a good guy, a good kid," Politis told Channel 9 on Tuesday night. "It’s sad that we’ve lost him to union, but he tells us he’s coming back in 2028." When asked if Suaalii would be welcomed back, Politis said: “Of course, yeah. Always a Rooster.”
Doubts have emerged in recent weeks about whether Suaalii would honour his deal with Rugby Australia considering the Wallabies' historically bad performance at the recent World Cup, and the fact the coaching situation is so uncertain in the wake of Eddie Jones' departure. But the 20-year-old has reportedly reaffirmed his commitment and is still keen on switching to the 15-man game.
NRL exploring salary cap exemptions for code-hopping players
Last week it emerged that the Roosters might have scored some revenge on the Wallabies, with coach Trent Robinson meeting with Mark Nawaqanitawase to discuss joining the NRL. On Tuesday, NRL CEO Andrew Abdo flagged the possibility of implementing salary cap exemptions for teams wanting to snare players from rival codes.
The ARL Commission is expected to discuss potential options for exemptions at next month's meeting, with Rugby Australia bosses admitting the Wallabies' horror World Cup showing has left them vulnerable. NSW Waratahs teenager Max Jorgensen has also long been a target for the NRL.
"We want the best athletes playing our game, whether that's the men's or women's competition," Abdo said. "Growth is on our agenda, so while our primary focus is developing rugby league talent through our own pathways, we're also open to attracting and, potentially in some cases, returning to league from other codes.
"Would salary-cap relief be potentially used? Yes. That's an absolute possibility that the commission will consider, and consider in due course."
But Abdo insisted any exemptions would be applied fairly, amid concerns that some clubs wouldn't be on the same level playing field as others. "Any change the commission might make to that policy will have to be very carefully considered, and there will be parameters and caps," Abdo said.
"It won't be a free-for-all. It will be delicate and it will be about making sure there's an opportunity for all clubs on an equal basis to have one or two talented players that they recruit potentially from other codes around the world. It'll be carefully considered though, because we do want to make sure that we focus on our pathways, and we also want to maintain competitive balance."
Rugby Australia boss' admission amid potential player exodus
Also on Tuesday, Rugby Australia CEO Phil Waugh admitted the 15-man code needed to win back the faith of the playing group. With Jones at the helm, the Wallabies failed to advance to the quarter-finals of the World Cup for the first time ever.
"We talk about building trust and connection. We've lost a lot of trust with the playing group as well," Waugh said. "The experience that they had this year with the Wallabies at the World Cup, compared to what they would have envisaged going into the World Cup, might have been very different.
"So it's really important for us to build a system that's attractive for them to be a part of. Right now where we are in the cycle with the (British and Irish) Lions and the home World Cup (looming in 2025 and 2027 respectively), it's the perfect opportunity for us to rebuild the game. But we need to build that trust of the players."
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