Rugby Australia must go all in on Joseph Suaalii, says Mat Rogers

“He’s an absolute superstar and he’s going to get better. He’s 19. He’s going to get stronger and faster. He will dominate the rugby league or rugby union landscape for the next 10 years. If I was him, I would stay in league for a little bit longer and establish myself as a dominant force in the game. Then I’d go over after you have years under your belt.”

Rogers carved out successful careers in league and rugby but finds the latter difficult to watch nowadays. Now a player manager and radio broadcaster, Rogers argued Australian rugby is bereft star players who will encourage kids to watch the game.

“Who is their marquee player now? Is Michael Hooper the guy who brings guys through the gates?” Rogers said. “He is a phenomenal athlete and a great player but kids don’t go to watch him stick his head at the bottom of a ruck. Kids get excited about the high-flying, fast-running players who score tries.

“You don’t have a 12-year-old going to a rugby match and saying, ‘Wow, that guy hit that ruck hard’. It’s about marketing as much about the game. Suaalii is marketable and he could be a huge marquee signing for them in that respect.”

“[Marika] Koroibete is exciting. Other than that, I’m at a loss as to who the guy is that I turn on the telly for. Rugby need to get back to that and characters in their game that people want to watch. In league, there’s a number of teams that have that, like James Tedesco, Nicho Hynes and Tom Trbojevic. Rugby doesn’t have it.

“I know how hard the Wallabies work, I know how hard the game is. The reality is, for the last 20 years, we haven’t had the cattle there to get the job done. Something has to change. No disrespect to the players that are there, but if they got the job done, there’d be no talk about Joseph Suaalii because they wouldn’t need him.”


Speculation of a $2 million per season offer for Suaalii has been shut down by RA recently but talk of such a lucrative deal has been a hot topic of discussions at Super Rugby franchises.

Some stakeholders believe anything over $1.5 million a season would be wasted money. One prominent figure in the game, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said wild figures being tossed around weren’t going to do the game any good.

“Based on the current finances, the Rugby Australia Board would be derelict in their duties to approve that level of spend,” one source said.

Another said: “Consider the generational shift that amount of money could make in retaining 40 of the best schoolboys or investing in community or competition pathways”.

Waratahs captain Jake Gordon was asked about the Suaalii situation on Thursday ahead of his side’s clash with the Chiefs. He said he’d be open to playing alongside him at NSW.

“I’ve seen him play league, he’s pretty athletic. I haven’t seen him play union yet,” Gordon said. “I’m sure he’d go well in union. So in short, yeah we’d be happy with it.”

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