Joseph Suaalii at centre of brutal swipe from ex-Rabbitohs boss

The young Roosters sensation's commitment to the club has been thrown into question.

Pictured here, Joseph Suaalii in action for the Roosters.
Joseph Suaalii's commitment to the Roosters has been thrown into question. Pic: Getty

South Sydney Rabbitohs supremo Shane Richardson has dropped a brutal truth bomb on Roosters star Joseph Suaalii, amid the ongoing contract debate involving the youngster's teammate and captain James Tedesco. Tedesco this week signed a one-year contract extension at the Sydney Roosters in a move that appears to be aimed at shoring up Suaalii's future at the NRL powerhouse.

The contract situation between Tedesco and Suaalii has dominated headlines recently, with a sense in the rugby league world that the Roosters would have to prioritise signing one player over the other. Suaalii, 19, is regarded as a future superstar of the game and it's understood Rugby Australia are circling with what would be a massive contract offer if they were able to prise him away from rugby league.

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Fitting Suaalii, Tedesco and New Zealand international Joseph Manu under the salary cap is another question that has been posed for the Roosters, not to mention that Suaalii has made no secret of his desire to play in Tedesco's fullback position long-term. It's thrown up a delicate conundrum for the Roosters, with Richardson deciding to weigh in on the debate ahead of the Rabbitohs' clash with the Roosters on Friday night.

The former South Sydney CEO has stoked the flames before the fierce foundation rivals square off at Allianz Stadium after questioning Suaalii's commitment to the Tri Colours. Richardson also made reference to the infamous "salary sombrero" and the Roosters' continual ability to fit a team of superstars under the NRL salary cap.

“When you’re building a club you build it around players who want to be there. Not around players who are only prepared to sign one year extensions," Richardson told Fox League in a thinly veiled swipe at Suaalii.

“The fullback (Tedesco) and Joey Manu have both clearly shown the Roosters they want to be a part of their club. I know they both took less money to stay under the Roosters sombrero which everyone jokes about.

“In all seriousness, that’s how you build culture and build a team. You need players who are committed to the club and don’t issue demands about what position they want to play.

“Joey Manu is an outstanding player, he’s in the top percentile of NRL players, because he can play multiple positions and he’s a team man like Latrell Mitchell.”

The Roosters already have the NSW and Australia captain in the No.1 jersey, but Suaalii is the long-term option at fullback and widely regarded as the best prospect in the game right now. Tedesco and Suaalii were previously under contract until the end of 2024, but the Roosters announced on Tuesday that Tedesco had extended his deal for one more year.

Seen here, Sydney Roosters star James Tedesco.
James Tedesco is set to extend his stay at the Sydney Roosters. Image: Getty

James Tedesco extends stay at Roosters

The extension would appear to be Tedesco's final contract before he retires, which would see Suaalli take over the fullback role in 2026. “I’m proud to lead this club and I’ve enjoyed my career here at the Roosters so far," he said. "We’re a close group and I’m looking forward to continuing to work with the team we have here to add to the Roosters’ rich history."

Suaalii has been heavily courted by Rugby Australia, who reportedly offered him a five-year, $10 million deal to switch codes. He recently extended his own deal with the Roosters until the end of 2024, leaving his options open.

Tedesco re-signing appears to be the Roosters' way of showing Suaalii what his future looks like in the NRL, indicating the teenager will need to bide his time in the centres before taking over as fullback in 2026.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Tedesco was adamant he can co-exist with Suaalii in a star-studded Roosters back-line. "One hundred per cent. I don't think anyone wants to leave the club. Especially myself, I want to stay for as long as I can," he said.

"Having guys like Suaalii and Joey Manu outside me, our spine is pretty dangerous for our team. And if we can get us all together playing for many years to come, I think it is really beneficial for the club."

Tedesco added: "Of course I want to finish my career here but there is no rush. I have two years left on my contract, I am happy with where I am at at the moment. I'm enjoying my career here so far at the Roosters."

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