Rugby Australia’s new chairman, Daniel Herbert, indicates a shift away from NRL recruitment but clarifies that there are no current efforts to get out from under the financial burden of Joseph Suaalii’s lucrative deal. Suaalii is set to join Rugby on a $1.6 million deal, with about half of the amount being sourced from donations as per a deal initiated by former chairman Hamish McLennan. While Suaalii had reportedly shown interest in staying in rugby league after the World Cup and the departure of Eddie Jones and McLennan, Herbert emphasized that the focus should be on protecting and nurturing existing rugby talent.
Regarding the contract with Suaalii, Herbert stated that there are no efforts to terminate it at the moment. Former chairman McLennan believes that signing Suaalii is the right decision, emphasizing his potential to bring in bigger audiences and elevate rugby union. Meanwhile, former rugby league star James Graham and Eddie Jones discussed the potential impact of Suaalii’s recruitment on the Wallabies and Australian rugby. Jones mentioned the importance of Suaalii’s attitude and performance, while Graham highlighted the pressure the young athlete would face as the face of Australian rugby.
In response to the NRL’s announcement of salary cap relief for teams recruiting from union, Jones suggested that only a few rugby players might be tempted to switch to league due to the damage being done in schools and the PR impact of such announcements. Overall, Herbert and the new leadership at Rugby Australia seem committed to fostering internal talent and focusing on the growth of rugby within the existing talent pool.