Sydney Roosters news: Why young gun Joseph Suaalii knocked back rugby union offers to star in NRL

Sydney Roosters youngster Joseph Suaalii has started to deliver on his enormous potential - and rugby union powerbrokers will be kicking themselves every time they see him uneash.

Joseph Suaalii revealed after his breakout performance for the Sydney Roosters on Sunday night that he was never tempted to pursue a place in the 2023 rugby union World Cup at the expense of rugby league.

Suaalii took up an option in his contract at the Roosters for next season on the eve of his starring role against Parramatta, ensuring he would remain in rugby league for at least one more season.

Australian Rugby Union and the Wallabies would no doubt have salivated over a switch of codes but it was never on the cards for the 18-year-old, who soared above Eels winger Hayze Perham to score one of the tries of Magic Round.

“There was no temptation,” Suaalii said.

“I love it here, I love everyone at the club - the staff and all the players. I am happy to be here for another year.

“I feel comfortable. I love playing footy and being at the top level. When I am on the field I want to be one of the best players on the field and help the team win.”

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Suaalii was brilliant against the Eels. (Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)
Suaalii was brilliant against the Eels. (Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)

Suaalii was a rugby union prodigy who was chased by the ARU and Wallabies coach Dave Rennie before he switched from South Sydney to the Roosters.

He debuted last year as a 17-year-old and his 2022 has been a slow burn after injury sidelined him for the opening weeks of the season.

He patiently waited for his chance and since it has arrived, it has been full steam ahead. Suaalii ran for more than 100 metres in the win over Parramatta, but it was his spectacular leap over Perham that had the crowd in awe at Suncorp Stadium.

Pure Magic: Joseph Suaalii had the crowd on their feet with his electrifying performance. Picture: Getty
Pure Magic: Joseph Suaalii had the crowd on their feet with his electrifying performance. Picture: Getty

Suaalii soared to grasp a Luke Keary bomb, afterward suggesting he was inspired by the efforts of his fellow winger Daniel Tupou.

“I have been working on that for a long time now, watching Daniel Tupou do it every day at training now,” he said.
“I try to copy what he does. Keary put the kick up, it was a very good kick and I was fortunate to catch it. I was just trying to catch the ball and put it down.

“A lot of practice, just repetition every day on the paddock trying to catch balls. “

Suaalii has looked at home in the NRL. Credit: NRL Images.
Suaalii has looked at home in the NRL. Credit: NRL Images.

Almost as impressive as his aerial skills was his return game. Time and again Suaalii tore into the Eels but while others were lathering the teenager in praise, Suaalii insisted he had things to work on in his game.

“That is one big thing - get that quick play the ball for the next person,” he said.

“That is where I have grown in my game. There’s a lot of things I need to improve on. I wasn’t very happy with my defence.

“I want to work on that. I have a lot of things to work on in my game. Game by game, I have got my confidence … but I need to work on my defensive presence.

“Robbo (Coach Trent Robinson) has opened my eyes to the one percenters in the game. Kick-pressure, playing off the ball. When I was a junior, I would just run around.”

Meanwhile, South Sydney superstar Latrell Mitchell boarded a plane on Monday morning for the United States as he attempts to fast-track his return from knee and hamstring problems.

Mitchell will spend time in Philadelphia with renowned trainer Bill Knowles.

ROOSTERS’ COSTLY WIN IN MAGIC ROUND THRILLER

- By Marco Monteverde

Sam Walker’s love affair with Suncorp Stadium continues, with the Sydney Roosters five-eighth instrumental in his side’s 31-24 win over Parramatta on Sunday.

Having scored a try and landed a sideline conversion to sink the Brisbane Broncos at the same venue earlier last month, Walker again rose to the occasion in a Magic Round classic.

The teenage Queenslander’s short kicking game was superb in the first half, with his silky boot setting up two Roosters tries.

The first came in the 12th minute when a Walker grubber kick completely bamboozled and embarrassed Eels fullback Clint Gutherson.

Roosters No.1 James Tedesco pounced, grounding the ball before Gutherson could recover.

Walker then did it all himself in the 24th minute.

With the Eels down to 12 men following the sin-binning of centre Tom Opacic for a professional foul, Walker noticed the space behind the Eels defensive line that included fullback Gutherson.

He proceeded to chip over the Eels’ line of defence before regathering to score next to the posts.

The Roosters attack is finally clicking after a mixed start to the season, now with back-to-back wins. Picture: Getty Images.
The Roosters attack is finally clicking after a mixed start to the season, now with back-to-back wins. Picture: Getty Images.

Walker’s first-half heroics also included four goals and a field goal on the stroke of half-time to extend his side’s advantage to 15 points at the break.

Walker then iced the contest with a late penalty that sealed the Roosters a seven-point win.

However, despite his brilliant attacking display, Walker wasn’t happy with his defence.

“Sam’s disappointed ... which I really like,” Roosters coach Trent Robinson said.

“He knows that he can do that stuff that he did in the first half. He sees the game well.

“He pushed our lead forward there, but then he was really disappointed in some of his defence.

“He’s been much better than that for most of the year. I really like the attitude he’s got to equalise (and say) ‘I know I can do that, but I’ve also got to do that’.”

Walker wasn’t the only Rooster to struggle in defence in the second half, with Parramatta fighting back from 25-6 down soon after half-time to reduce the deficit to one point with three tries in a 10-minute blitz.

But the Roosters responded in style, with winger Joseph Suaalii scoring his second try of the match in the 61st minute after rising high to grab a pinpoint Luke Keary cross-field bomb.

The win came at a cost, with Victor Radley suffering an ankle injury. Picture: Getty Images.
The win came at a cost, with Victor Radley suffering an ankle injury. Picture: Getty Images.

CONTENDERS OR PRETENDERS?

Parramatta’s inconsistency continues to throw doubt over the Eels’ premiership credentials.

A week after ending reigning premiers Penrith’s unbeaten start to the season, Parramatta – who also beat the Melbourne Storm earlier this year – again failed to live up to expectations.

While their second-half performance was admirable, the Eels’ first-half display was extremely disappointing.

“Our start was poor,” Eels coach Brad Arthur said.

“The games that we’ve lost this year, we’ve been beaten to the punch at the start of the game.

“We’re waiting to see what the opposition can do. We need to go after the game at the start.”

The Eels’ inconsistency continued against the Roosters, struggling in the first half before threatening a comeback. Picture: Getty Images.
The Eels’ inconsistency continued against the Roosters, struggling in the first half before threatening a comeback. Picture: Getty Images.

ORIGIN SETBACK FOR BLUES

Victor Radley’s hopes of NSW State of Origin selection suffered a blow when he was forced

off inside the opening 20 minutes with an ankle injury.

Under some heavy attention from the Eels defence, the Roosters back-rower’s ankle seemed to get stuck under him as he passed the ball to teammate James Tedesco.

Radley will have scans on what seems to be a syndesmosis injury.

“Victor doesn’t usually report injuries at all,” concerned Roosters coach Trent Robinson said.

“Medical staff have to try to pry it out of him, so when ‘Rads’ was limping like that, it looked like a few weeks (on the sidelines).”

With injured Souths forward Cameron Murray out of contention for game one of the Origin series, Radley was a chance of forcing his way into the Blues pack, which could include his Roosters teammate Angus Crichton.

MAGIC MARK: ROUNDS OF APPLAUSE FOR EELS’ RECORD RUN

Dean Ritchie

This is something not even the best have achieved.

Not the Roosters, not Panthers, nor Manly or the Rabbitohs.

Parramatta will this Sunday notch up 80 successive rounds inside the top eight – the longest streak of any Sydney club in the NRL era.

The Eels slipped inside the top eight after round one, 2019, and have remained there ever since. That’s 79 straight rounds with one more to be added — win, lose or draw — against the Sydney Roosters on Sunday in Magic Round at Suncorp Stadium. And it has all unfolded under the coaching of Brad Arthur.

It is also Parramatta’s longest streak inside the top eight.

Brad Arthur has guided Parramatta to its longest streak of consecutive weeks inside the NRL top eight. Picture: NRL Images
Brad Arthur has guided Parramatta to its longest streak of consecutive weeks inside the NRL top eight. Picture: NRL Images

“I didn’t know that stat but it’s a good measuring stick for our club,” Arthur said. “Everyone talks about consistency so this is a good fact.

“It’s full credit to our playing group and our senior blokes who have led our young blokes. There hasn’t been a lot of chopping and changing to the core group of our players.

“But unfortunately it doesn’t win competitions and that’s what we’re about. Mind you, you can’t win a comp from outside the top eight but there is still a long way to go.”

Parramatta’s achievement is fourth longest ever behind Melbourne (82 rounds between 2011 and 2014), Melbourne again (92 rounds between 2014 and 2018) and Brisbane (139 rounds between 1999 and 2005).

Should Parramatta remain inside the top eight for the rest of this season, the Eels will hit 94 rounds and pass Melbourne into second place.

Eels fans are desperately hoping that consistency will finally be rewarded with an elusive grand final win this season.

Clinton Gutherson and Dylan Brown and been key players in the Eels’ run. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
Clinton Gutherson and Dylan Brown and been key players in the Eels’ run. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

“It’s a great effort in a very close competition and points to how consistent the Eels have been over the past few seasons,” Fox Sports Lab’s Aaron Wallace said.

“But they were lucky to get off the ground at the start of the streak. In 2019 they lost three in a row and were in eighth spot by a one point differential ahead of the Broncos.

“Last year they had a stretch of one win from five games but only dropped from third to sixth due to their good start to the season.

“Being consistent is a good start but it doesn’t mean much if they can’t take the next step and win a competition though — 1986 is a long time ago.”

Parramatta will, at worst, remain in the top eight for another fortnight. Heavy back-to-back losses, albeit unlikely, could see them replaced by Souths heading into round 12.

“It creates a lot of respect among rival clubs that a team can achieve this in the modern era where it’s such a competitive competition. It’s the best of the best every weekend,” said Eels legend, Peter Wynn, who won three grand finals at the club in 1982, 1983 and 1986.

Eels great Peter Wynn has applauded Parramatta’s consistency in recent reasons.
Eels great Peter Wynn has applauded Parramatta’s consistency in recent reasons.

“That’s a huge effort by the club, to keep at that level for such a long time. Other clubs will now be looking at how well Parramatta is going.

“To hold that position inside the top eight for such a long time is also a huge reflection on the coach, the coaching staff and players.

“It clearly shows you how hard the club is chasing that goal of winning that elusive premiership. There is a lot of commitment and consistency in their endeavour to win that grand final. Hopefully Parramatta can break through that barrier and get it done this year.”

TAB bookies are predicting a Parramatta win over the Roosters. The Eels are $1.67 favourites with the Roosters $2.20 outsiders. Parramatta is paying $8 to win the grand final only behind Melbourne ($3.50) and Penrith ($3).

Originally published as Sydney Roosters news: Why young gun Joseph Suaalii knocked back rugby union offers to star in NRL

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