By Eddie Franklin
There’s something sickening about what is currently happening to 16-year-old athlete Joseph Suaalii.
Right now, Suaalii is one of the best young sport stars in Australia but the grubby fight that’s taking place between Rugby Australia and the NRL is disgusting.
Already standing 196cm tall, there’s no denying Suaalii’s talent but still without a player manager Suaalii has a monster decision to make and the pressure that’s being placed on him is repulsive.
There have been several reports of different contract agreements with the most prominent being he’s agreed to a three-year deal worth $3 million to join rugby union.
The rumours are way off the mark, with sources close to RA suggesting that the figure is currently around $200,000 a year, as opposed to the offer from the South Sydney Rabbitohs in the NRL who have apparently tabled an offer around $500,00 per season.
It seems the media is starting to become as confused as Suaalii, who is now loaded with more expectation and hype than most professional players and he’s yet to play a single match of either code against an adult.
It’s hard enough to separate the fact from the fiction in this troubling story. RA chief executive Rob Clarke had to phone senior Wallabies players to assure them the $3m sum was incorrect. It’s humiliating to the code that has no-long term broadcasting deal and is allegedly in the middle of a contract freeze.
Certain Rugby Union personnel believe the figure was proposed by South Sydney as a way to trick the people involved and the general public. Others have questioned whether or not it was a strategy to simply create chaos in the 15-man code so Souths could force another twist to the story.
Ultimately if that is the case with any of these alleged ‘schemes’, it’s shameful to say the least.
To add to the story there was whispers that Souths owner Russell Crowe had flown out Suaalii and his family, including seven siblings, to his farm to persuade him to become a full-time Rabbitoh. Souths boss Blake Solly later denied these events and Crowe had no response when asked, but you can say confidently that Crowe will be sure to put on the Maximus voice in order to do everything in his power to get Suaalii in the red and green Jersey.
Some believe that Suaalii’s top interest right now is to represent Australia at the Tokyo Olympics in sevens rugby, as the idea has been in the pipeline for some months.
All in all, there’s growing concern from the public as well as Suaalii’s close friends and family.
I hope the young man can come to a decision that best suits him, his family and his career and for him to go out onto the field for whichever team he chooses and plays some good footy.