The Sydney Roosters’ signing of Joseph Suaalii is, for many, problematic.
Once again the old ‘salary sombrero’ has allegedly been placed on Trent Robinson’s now-expectant head.
Depending on who you listen to, Suaalii could be earning $10 million dollars per month, with every last dollar paid in a brown paper bag.
Further, the signing also solidifies the fact that the Chooks are destroying the very fabric of rugby league by both stealing promising juniors and buying their way to a premiership.
What this tired narrative forgets is that the majority of their recently triumphant players have either been developed and nurtured by the club since they were kids or fine-tuned from good NRL players into superstars.
The obvious exceptions are Cooper Cronk, James Tedesco and, to a lesser extent, Angus Crichton. Let’s not forget, even Luke Keary was playing on the bench at Souths when Nick Politis nabbed him.
To further this notion, let’s take a closer look at some recent premiership-winning players.
Boyd Cordner, Jake Friend, Latrell Mitchell, Joseph Manu and Daniel Tupou all arrived as teenagers and are now superstars.
Sio Siua Taukeiaho arrived from the Warriors as a winger that nobody knew and is now a superstar, while Jared Waerea-Hargreaves arrived as a decent but largely inexperienced front-rower from Manly and is now one of the best props of the last 20 years.
Before them, there was Roger Tuivasa-Sheck – widely considered one of the best players in the world – who was developed so well that the Warriors saw it fit to offer him $1 million a year. How dare they!
What fans (of other clubs) need to appreciate, is that players want to play for the Bondi club. They see what’s happened to the players listed above and they want to follow in their footsteps.
Further, and somewhat bewilderingly, they want to win premierships. Three trophies in the last seven years makes the club an attractive destination.
Those within the game will tell you that the Tricolours (and Melbourne) set themselves apart by implementing standards, systems and processes that demand excellence and diminish mediocrity.
Robinson is an incredibly gifted coach – you don’t win three premierships in your first six years if you’re anything less than stellar.
The counter argument is that he’s been given everything he wants by a club who are rolling in it financially. Yes, Uncle Nick is wealthy – extremely wealthy – and yes, the club is well resourced, but so are the Broncos and, well, they haven’t won’t a comp in nearly 15 years.
What is also grossly under appreciated is how good the Chooks are at managing the salary cap. Watch closely every year and you’ll see them quietly let go two or three players on whom have received maximum return of investment – think Dylan Napa, Blake Ferguson and Zane Tetevano.
The club is also superb at keeping the cap in shape. Think back to when Cooper Cronk and Mitchell – well over $1.5 million dollars worth of talent – left at the end of 2019 and were replaced by Kyle Flanagan and Josh Morris, two players who certainly wouldn’t have broken the bank.
Flanagan has now moved on, likely to allow young gun Sam Walker to assume his place in first grade, and you can bet your bottom dollar that (for the next year or two at least) Walker won’t be breaking the bank either.
All of this allows the club to put more money where it’s needed – namely upgrading the likes of Keary, Taukeiaho and eventually Tedesco.
What helps even further is that players choose to stay for unders. Nearly every notable Roosters player who has come off contract in the last few years received bigger offers to go elsewhere. And yet, with the exception of RTS, they’ve all stayed. Yes, Latrell also moved on (apparently for less than what Easts offered), but that was down largely to a desire to play fullback, which was never going to happen while Tedesco was at the club.
So as we look forward to 2021, you can bet your bottom dollar that the Sydney Roosters will be there or thereabouts again. They might even get an exemption from the NRL to play Joseph Suaalii in Round 1 – and he’ll probably score a freakish, headline-grabbing try.
And the rest of us battlers will sit back and dwell on the fact that life can be so unfair, while Uncle Nick and the boys sip champagne and eat caviar in the corporate suites behind us.
Those dirty rotten cheats!