It was less than 10 months ago that Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan gleefully celebrated Joseph Suaalii’s acquisition, but according to Sydney Roosters supremo Nick Politis the NRL star is already plotting a return.
Suaalii, 20, signed a three-year deal with RA in late March worth an estimated $1.6 million per season.
He is due to join Australian rugby following the 2024 NRL season with the Roosters, where he is likely to be taken on the Wallabies’ end of season spring tour.
McLennan celebrated the former Australian Schoolboy’s signature, saying the code was “delighted to have him back home.”
While some rugby figures like Morgan Turinui said Suaalii would well and truly pay the code back in spades with his output on the field, others were less enthusiastic given the cash-strapped nature of the game.
Just like Israel Folau’s arrival to rugby in 2013, Suaalii will arrive in time to push for selection against the British and Irish Lions.
His contract also takes him through until after the 2027 Rugby World Cup, the prized showpiece event Australia will host.
But then, according to Politis, Suaalii will return to the NRL.
”Joseph is a good guy, a good kid,” Politis told Nine.
“It’s sad that we’ve lost him to (rugby) union, but he tells us he’s coming back in 2028.”
Asked whether he would Suaalii back, Politis said “of course.”
He added: “Always a Rooster.”
The Roosters have a history of welcoming players back to the club, with two-time World Cup Sonny Bill Williams previously switching between the NRL club and the All Blacks.
Politis’ comments came as Wallabies star Mark Nawaqanitawase met with Roosters officials, including coach Trent Robinson, on Tuesday.
Nawaqanitawase, 23, is off contract at the end of 2024 and Suaalii’s defection means not only do the Roosters have some cash to spend, but Rugby Australia will likely have less to keep other backs themselves.
The NRL has also expressed their desire to chase some of rugby’s best talent, with NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo admitting that setting up a fund was on the agenda.
“We want the best athletes playing our game, whether that’s the men’s or women’s competition,” Abdo said.
“Growth is on our agenda, so while our primary focus is developing rugby league talent through our own pathways, we’re also open to attracting and, potentially in some cases, returning to league from other codes.
“Would salary-cap relief be potentially used? Yes.
“That’s an absolute possibility that the commission will consider, and consider in due course.”
Rugby Australia chief executive Phil Waugh said the governing body needed to do more to ensure the current crop of players felt confident in the direction the game was heading.
“The players are a critical part of this journey,” Waugh told reporters on Tuesday.
“I think we’ve talked about building trust and credibility across the ecosystem, I think building trust and actually regaining that trust with that player group is actually really important at the moment.
“I’m constantly talking to the senior players in the Wallabies to ensure that they’re clear on the journey that we have.
“With the runway we have, and I know it’s not far away with the British and Irish Lions in ‘25 and World Cup in ‘27, it should be pretty exciting for them to stand up and be a part of it.”