Joseph Suaalii's 'ridiculous' demand comes to light amid $5m move to rugby
The cross-code player's management made some staggering demands in 2018 when he was just 15.
Rugby Australia has made plenty of blunders over the years as the sport slipped to the fourth-most popular football code in the country – but it cannot be blamed for allegedly passing on Joseph Suaalii as a 15-year-old armed with ridiculous demands. A News Corp story this week revealed the Waratahs were offered Suaalii for $100,000-a-year over three years, with the deal requiring the imprimatur of RA.
But there was a catch…or two. Suaalli's management team reportedly stipulated that, on top of the Tahs' money, its client demanded a spot on the Wallabies Spring Tour in 2018 as some sort of European work experience odyssey. He also wanted to train with the Australian squad whenever the Wallabies were in Sydney.
HUGE PONGA CALL: Predicted Queensland team for State of Origin I
'JUST THE START': Payne Haas at centre of $4.8m rugby development
Apparently, this all fitted in nicely with Suaalii's plan to be representing Australia by age 20. Remember, Suaalii, for all his undoubted talent, was only 15 and in Year 9 at the King's School when these negotiations were taking place.
What sort of precedent would it have set had RA green-lighted the audacious – some might say arrogant – demand to take a kid on a Wallabies tour? What message would that have sent the next teenage whiz who came knocking on RA's door?
The proposal, not surprisingly, was turned down and Suaalii took up an offer with the South Sydney Rabbitohs before eventually shifting across town to the Roosters. He will return to the 15-man code in 2025 on a deal worth more than $5m over three years.
Ex-Rugby Australia official responds to Joseph Suaalii reports
It's been a costly process to bring Suaalii 'home' but those in charge back in 2018 can't be held totally responsible for his departure to league. One former high-ranking RA official told Yahoo Sport Australia: "I'm unaware of that proposal to take Suaalii overseas with the Wallabies, but I can’t see how it would have ever got past first base.
"Firstly, there would have been so many logistical questions around taking a 15-year-old boy on a tour like that, and secondly, the sport risked being held to ransom had it acquiesced to the demand. There is no doubting the player's ability but no one player is bigger than the sport. I'm not surprised they knocked him back."
The $5m investment in Suaalii carries huge risk, but it’s one RA felt it had to take to regain some relevancy on the Australian sporting landscape. If it doesn't succeed, then you can put that down as a rolled-gold blunder.
Sign up to our newsletter and score the biggest sport stories of the week.