Rugby Australia chair Hamish McLennan has confirmed a massive push to poach Sydney Roosters star Joseph Suaalii, with the 18-year-old starlet viewed 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 that the Wallabies are hoping to convince to switch codes ahead of the 2027 World Cup, with Bulldogs gun Matt Burton also in their sights.
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Suaalii was an outstanding schoolboy rugby prospect before snubbing rugby to join the Roosters on a massive deal – and with the NRL changing its rules to allow his senior debut before turning 18.
He has grown into a shining light for the club in just his second season, also earning a spot in the NSW Blues Origin squad this year.
Now McLennan has told The Australian that Suaalii is first on the Wallabies’ wish list.
“We were sad to lose Joseph to league, but there’s an incredible pathway through to the 2027 Rugby World Cup, if he and others want it,” McLennan said.
“We have to do the private equity deal, get some money in the bank, but yes, we absolutely will be targeting league stars.”
Suaalii has been stuck on the right wing for the Roosters, but has made it clear he is hoping to become the club’s future fullback – though club captain James Tedesco and Kiwi international fullback Joey Manu stand in his way.
“I’m happy to do whatever for the team, be it on the wing, centre, fullback, even five-eighth – I’ll play anywhere,” Suaalii said a week ago. “I’m behind two of the best fullbacks in the game with Tedesco and Joey, so it will be hard to play fullback.”
But asked about the prospect of swapping clubs to play fullback, Suaalii replied: “I love it here, and if I could I’d be here forever – I love this club.”
Nevertheless, and despite having two years to run on his deal with Sydney, Suaalii’s contract reportedly includes a get-out clause at the end of each season, which allows him to swap clubs – or codes.
And with the 2025 British & Irish Lions tour and 2027 World Cup on the horizon, Rugby Australia is hoping that Suaalii can headline a repeat of the Wallabies’ 2003 World Cup – in which a number of league stars jumped ship for the tourney on home soil.
In that tournament, Wendell Sailor, Lote Tuqiri, and Mat Rogers all featured from the Wallabies, having each been poached from the NRL.
Sailor told The Australian that Suaalii is a ‘no-brainer’ for the Wallabies.
“I have seen what he’s done this year for the Roosters and he is just a next level weapon,” Sailor said.
“Yeah, I just think like anything, rugby union, (has) got to be very smart who they go after … but I just think Suaalii, it’s a no-brainer.
“He’ll 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 obviously, the Wallabies, we shouldn’t have lost to England this year but if you have someone like (Suaalii) in there, he’s your X-factor. You pay your money for your X-factors. He has proven himself already, he made the New South Wales Origin squad at the age of 18.”
Originally published as Wallabies eye massive bid for Joseph Suaalii – and contract clause could trigger code swap