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'It's a no-brainer': Waratahs would welcome Joseph Suaalii a year early

By AAP
(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

The NSW Waratahs say they would welcome Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii a year earlier than expected if the Sydney Roosters are willing to release the code-hopper from his NRL contract at season’s end.

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But that is only the case if they can nut out the financials for the $1.6 million-a-season superstar.

Suaalii is due to join the Waratahs at the end of 2024 after signing a multimillion dollar, three-year deal with Rugby Australia in late March.

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But speculation is rife that the Roosters are prepared to prematurely offload the teenage sensation.

The Waratahs on Tuesday said they would happily take him.

“A hundred per cent. If he does get released early, it’s a no-brainer. He’s got to come straight across,” said Waratahs assistant coach Jason Gilmore.

“But it’s probably just the money side of it, like, who’s paying his freight?

“How does that look between the Waratahs or Rugby Australia, or is there a little bit of a payout from the Chooks that softens that blow a little bit as well?

“But the short answer is, if he came across, do we want him now? A hundred per cent we do.

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“But the reality of it, with the money, I don’t know how that would work.”

Roosters supremo Nick Politis on Monday said the Tricolours weren’t prepared to release Suaalii early “at this stage”, and deferred any recruitment and retention decisions to coach Trent Robinson.

Gilmore said he feels for Suaalii and wonders how the 19-year-old is coping being at the centre of an increasingly ugly cross-code tug-of-war.

“I think people forget that while they’re professional footballers, Joey is a young man too, and as much as they say they don’t read social media or what’s going on, they’re all aware of it,” he said.

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“Does he have good support? He’s the talk of the town at the moment, but he is a young man still.”

For all Suaalii’s talents, Gilmore said the prodigy shouldn’t expect a walk-up start at the Waratahs and would need to fight his way past fullback Max Jorgensen or wingers Dylan Pietsch and Mark Nawaqanitawase.

“You don’t want to parachute a guy straight in. He’s got to earn his stripes,” he said.

“He’s obviously a good player, but Dylan Pietsch, Mark and ‘Jorgo’ have been doing the business for us every week.”

While fullback would be “his main spot”, the Waratahs also view Suaalii as a potential outside centre or winger.

“Joey aerially is outstanding, and probably playing in the centres for the Roosters at the moment he doesn’t get to display that as much as he does on the wing with those cross-field kicking options,” Gilmore said.

“You want to get his hands on the ball and you want to utilise his best assets. Whether that’s right wing or fullback, they’re obviously interchangeable these days.

“(Israel) Folau did both. He played outside centre, but he bounced a lot between right wing and fullback because aerially he was so good.

“It depends on the other boys. It’s still 12 months away, so we’ve got ‘Jorgo’ and Dylan and Mark here who are great players as well, so the balance of the back three is the big thing.”

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