Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan has confirmed a massive push to poach Sydney Roosters star Joseph Suaali, with the 18-year-old star regarded as a top priority for the Wallabies.
Foxsports.com.au revealed a fortnight ago that Suaalii was on Rugby Australia’s ‘hit list’ of NRL players the Wallabies hope to convince to switch codes ahead of the 2027 FIFA World Cup, with Bulldogs gun Matt Burton also in the sights.
Suaalii was an outstanding rugby schoolboy before opting for rugby to join the Roosters in a massive deal – and the NRL changed its rules to allow his senior debut before turning 18.
He grew into a shining light for the club in his second season and also earned a spot in the NSW Blues Origin squad this year.
Now McLennan has told The Australian that Suaalii is top of the Wallabies’ wish list.
“We were sad to lose Joseph to the league but there is an incredible pathway to the 2027 Rugby World Cup if he and others want it,” McLennan said.
“We have to do a private equity deal, get some money in the bank, but yes, we will definitely focus on the stars of the league.
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Suaalii has been stuck on the Roosters’ right wing but has made it clear he hopes to become the club’s full-back of the future – even if club captain James Tedesco and Kiwi international full-back Joey Manu stand in the way.
“I’m happy to do anything for the team, whether it’s wing, centre, full-back, even five-eighth – I’ll play anywhere,” Suaalii said a week ago. “With Tedesco and Joey, I’m behind two of the best defenders in the game, so it’s going to be tough to play defenders.
But when asked about the prospect of switching clubs for full-back Suaalii said: “I love it here and if I could I would be here forever – I love this club.”
However, and despite having two years left on his contract with Sydney, Suaali’s contract is said to include an exit clause at the end of each season, allowing him to change clubs – or codes.
And with the British & Irish Lions tour in 2025 and the 2027 World Cup on the horizon, Rugby Australia is hoping Suaalii can headline a repeat of the Wallabies’ 2003 World Cup – which saw a host of league stars jump into the tournament on home soil. .
This tournament featured the Wallabies’ Wendell Sailor, Lote Tuqiri and Mat Rogers, each poached from the NRL.
Sailor told The Australian that Suaalii was a “no-brainer” for the Wallabies.
“I’ve seen what he’s done for the Roosters this year and he’s just a next-level weapon,” Sailor said.
“Yeah, I just think whatever, the rugby union, (have to) be very smart about who they go after… but I just think Suaalia, it’s a bummer.
“He will play anywhere in that Wallabies backline … You could build a team around him and he could be there for a very long time in either code.
“But of course, Wallabies, we shouldn’t have lost to England this year, but if you’ve got someone like (Suaalii) there, that’s your X-factor.” You pay your money for your X-factors. He’s already proven himself, making the New South Wales Origin team at 18.”
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