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'Sugar rush': Ex-All Black slams 'laughable' deal by Rugby Australia for Suaalii

By Kim Ekin
(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Former All Black first five-eighth Stephen Donald has slammed Rugby Australia’s latest deal after they signed rugby league teenage sensation Joseph Suaalii.


The World Cup-winning No 10 said that the Wallabies’ fortunes won’t change once the Roosters star joins the side after 20 consecutive years without the Bledisloe Cup.

He described the deal as a “sugar rush” in the same vein as the decision to rapidly change course with the head coach, sacking Dave Rennie and signing discarded England head coach Eddie Jones.

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Donald said the Wallabies have more pressing matters than another outside back and for the price tag of $1.6 million a year should have been chasing a top NRL halfback to play at flyhalf.

“I know everything the ‘Cheese’ [Brandon Smith] said was tounge-and-cheek, but he’s hit the nail on the head,” Donald told SENZ radio’s The Run Home show.

“How’s he going to change their fortunes?

“I just can’t see it changing fortunes and I can’t see, unless they suddenly have Cameron Munster wearing the Wallabies’ 10 jersey or Nathan Cleary wearing the Wallabies’ 10 jersey.

“I don’t see any game changers in the NRL for the Wallabies.”

“100 per cent [they need a first five], Brandon Smith is 100 per cent right, $1.6m on a winger? No one spends $1.6m on a winger.”


Another potential option the former All Black suggested was to bring home two of their best locks who are based overseas.

Will Skelton, who made a return to the Wallabies last year as a quota player, plies his trade at La Rochelle in France while Richie Arnold is at Stade Francais.

Richie’s brother Rory Arnold is currently exiled in Japan after his club Hino Red Dolphins decided to cancel their participation in the Japan Rugby League One season.

“Australia Rugby’s probably got two guys, and I’m thinking of guys like [Will] Skelton or one of the Arnold brothers [Richie and Rory] who are world-class locks sitting over somewhere else, they give them $800,000 each, they can potentially change the root of the Wallabies.”


“It’s laughable that they have gone so big on a 19-year-old winger who – I know he’s a superstar or about to become a superstar – (but) that is massive.”

Arnold is one of the highest-paid Wallabies globally after inking a three-year deal with Hino reportedly worth AUD$4.5mil which would take up most of the commitment tabled to Suaalii if Rugby Australia were to buy it out.

The 32-year-old is also reluctant to turn his back on the contract which is in the second year and will continue to train and live in Japan without playing any games to see out his contract obligations.

Rugby Australia have signed 20-year-old lock prospect Miles Amatosero from Clermont, a towering 6’8 giant who weighs in at 125kg already.

Donald said the latest short-term move would create headlines for a while but would run cold when the Australian public have to live with the performances of their Super Rugby franchises.

“Everyone was talking about Eddie Jones about four months ago when they sacked Dave Rennie,” Donald said.

“Everyone talked about rugby for about a month or two in Australia.

“Now that their Super Rugby teams are back performing like Australian Super Rugby teams, no one’s talking about them.

“It’ll go cold again for another month, and then as you say, release another rugby league player that they’ve got.

“Just like Eddie Jones was four months ago, for me this is … a sugar rush.

“He’s not changing the fortunes of the Wallabies, there’s no way.”


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Damien 474 days ago

No kiwi players complain when Benji Marshall, Roger TS etc go from league to union but have to comment when it happens in Aust.

lot 474 days ago

speaking from jealousy. they never could command this kind of money in their rugby career. just jog off

Spew_81 474 days ago

Would've been better off to spend the money on Samu Kerevi.

flyinginsectshrimp 475 days ago

Thank goodness for Stephen Donald's insight!

It couldn't possibly be that RA have signed Sua'ali'i for the hype and exposure he'll generate in the important 2025–2027 Lions tour and RWC window, could it?

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