Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan has been told to "grow up" after his latest pot-shot at the NRL over the furore surrounding Roosters star Joseph Suaalii. Roosters supremo Nick Politis came out to refute reports this week that the Roosters were considering letting Suaalii leave one year early for rugby union.
The 19-year-old has struggled for form since inking a staggering three-year deal with RA from 2025 onwards, that is reportedly worth a whopping g $1.6 million a year. Suaalii is still contracted to the Roosters until the end of the 2024 season but reports have emerged this week that the Tri Colours were considering an early release to free up around $700,000 from their salary cap for next season.
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McLennan says RA has the cash to be able to take Suaalii now if he became available. The RA chairman stoked the bad blood between the rival codes by suggesting they could even take Roosters teammate Angus Crichton, before going on to claim that the NRL's treatment of Suaalii has been "nothing short of horrible”.
The RA boss suggested there was "more than meets the eye" with the Suaalii situation at the Roosters and insinuated that salary cap constraints had forced the NRL club's hand. “Rugby Australia won’t induce Joseph to break his contract but his agent can deal with that with a good lawyer in about 30 minutes," McLennan told News Corp. “Joey’s treatment is nothing short of horrible.”
Rugby Australia chair savaged over Joseph Suaalii comments
Not surprisingly, the RA chairman's comments have ruffled more than a few feathers across the league world, with veteran reporter Dean Ritchie urging him to focus on his own sport and stop riding off the coat-tails of the NRL. “Hamish McLennan or whatever his name is, he is certainly enjoying his 15 minutes of fame through rugby league,” Ritchie said on Sky Radio's Big Sports Breakfast.
“Don’t you think, if you were a rugby union player at the highest level, I’d be thinking why my chairman is persisting in talking rugby league every day when the junior system is up the you know what. The subbies clubs at grassroots are falling over every day, the Waratahs, you wouldn’t even know when they are playing.
“Start focusing on our game, grow up and start looking after my own back yard instead of trying to get a headline through rugby league.” Ritchie went on to criticise rugby's raid on players from the NRL and said it was a poor reflection on the 15-a-side footy code.
“Just because Hamish persists in using rugby league, do you think that’s going to make (people) go out and watch rugby union?” Ritchie asked. “What is his end push here for, what is he seeking?
"If they (players) want to go let them go, there’s a production line of league players that will replace them. And if they (Rugby Australia) want to keep coming to rugby league it is showing that their talent pool is that weak that they can’t produce their own.”
Bulldogs supremo and Nine commentator Phil Gould - who famously said Suaalii should leave the NRL immediately after signing the rugby deal - insisted the reports about the Roosters exploring an early release should serve as a "wake-up call" for the star.
"The reason I made my comments was, as a code, we didn't need to be giving them a free kick, he made his decision to go to rugby, (then) go to rugby," Gould said on Nine's 100% Footy. "That's not anything against him as a player or person ... Roosters jumped up and down about it, I don't care.
"I would say this is a little bit of a wake-up call for him," he said. I'd say if this has been leaked out to the media to be reported, it's because they want him to be aware of it."
Despite reports to the contrary, Roosters chairman Politis insisted the club had no plans to release Suaalii earlier than expected. “For starters you can’t blame Joseph for the way the team is performing,” Politis told News Corp. “We have no plans to release him at this stage. The final say on recruitment is always with ‘Robbo’ (coach Trent Robinson) anyway. He’s working very hard with all the players to turn things around for our next game.”
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