Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson has rubbished reports Joseph Suaalii could be released to rugby union a year early while lashing Rugby Australia chair Hamish McLennan for recent comments about the club’s salary cap.
In March, Suaalii signed a three-year, $4.8 million contract to switch codes from 2025, eyeing the chance to represent the Wallabies against the British & Irish Lions and at the World Cup two years later in 2027.
The contract, richer per season than any in NRL history, has since become the subject of protracted media and public interest.
The Roosters had originally been adamant Suaalii would honour the final year-and-a-half of his NRL deal but with the 19-year-old down on form, reports emerged this week the Tricolours could save around $700,000 by releasing him at the end of 2023.
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Suaalii’s future Super Rugby club the NSW Waratahs indicated this week they would be open to welcoming the young gun from 2024 if financial specifics could be ironed out.
Roosters chair Nick Politis deferred the final say in Suaalii’s contract situation to Robinson, who shut down rumours of an early switch on Thursday.
“He won’t be (released early),” Robinson said. “Those reports haven’t come from inside this club. That’s been speculation outside. It’s not even been a discussion inside this club.”
Canterbury general manager Phil Gould floated a theory on 100% Footy on Monday night the the Roosters could have leaked the initial story about Suaalii as a way of getting him to improve his form, which has been down over the past month since he announced he was off to rugby in 2025.
“I would say this is a little bit of a wake up call for him,” he said. “I’d say if this has been leaked out to the media to be reported, it’s because they want him to be aware of it.”
Speaking to News Corp this week, RA boss McLennan questioned whether salary cap issues were behind reports the Roosters wanted to offload Suaalii early.
Robinson took exception to the jibe, the latest entry into a public and increasingly childish war of words between the codes.
“He’s doing that for certain reasons,” Robinson said. “I can imagine rugby people aren’t excited about the way that’s been handled either.
“There’s usually a bit more class in the discussions and all of that. I don’t really want to get into it. I’ve got my job to do here.”
Ahead of Friday’s clash against Penrith, Robinson stressed the distinction between interest in Suaalii’s form and ongoing commentary about his future.
“We play a game that is televised and we get to do what we do because people have opinions on it,” he said.
“That scrutiny and that interest is on him and he has to perform.
“As far as putting pressure on about whether he’s going to be here or not, I feel like that’s unfair. Because that hasn’t come from inside these walls.”
Panthers five-eighth Jarome Luai doubted whether the headlines would be impacting his Samoan international teammate.
“Knowing how much of a professional he is, I don’t think much gets to him,” Luai said.
“He’s got a good support group as well. Obviously some things have happened where he’s leaving the game (at the end of) next year, so I think that’s why he’s targeted a bit.
“He’s going to be on this weekend and he’s a big focus point for us as well to win this game this week.”