The cross-code feud that’s emerged over the prized signature of teenage prodigy Joseph Suaalii has taken another turn.
Suaalii’s reported backflip on his bumper $1.7 million deal with South Sydney to play rugby has led to some feisty back-and-forth between the NRL world and the 15-man code.
Now Suaalii, just 16 years old, is the subject of a reported $3 million contract from Rugby Australia to pick the Gilbert over the Steeden.
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Writing in a column for The Daily Telegraph on Thursday, Fox Rugby’s Tim Horan took a potshot at rugby league for its inability to offer Suaalii the glory of playing in a “real World Cup”, instead having to run around in NRL heartland areas such as Campbelltown and Wollongong.
His column drew a response from Fox League’s Yvonne Sampson, who told the Big Sports Breakfast the conjecture around Suaalii’s future could do without the longstanding class warfare between the two codes.
“Tim Horan has been saying that rugby offers more than just the cash,” Sampson said.
“It’s the opportunity to play for the Wallabies and the prestige that goes along with that and travelling around the world.
“He had a bit of a dig at the NRL saying it’s better than running around in Wollongong or Campbelltown week in week out.
“I thought, you know, you can leave that bit out. In terms of career satisfaction, you’ve got to weigh up what makes you happy. Money is tight in the Suaalii family so you could never begrudge him taking money that would change his life and that of his family.
“It’s a huge conundrum for a 16-year-old to have.”
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Horan in the Telegraph defended reports of rugby digging deep into the coffers for a teenage high school player, claiming his understanding was that the contract on offer was a lot lower than $3 million.
“Maybe Joseph values the opportunity to play in a Wallaby Gold jersey and travel the world and play in a real World Cup rather than playing at Wollongong or Campbelltown week in week out,” Horan wrote.
It was a subtle dig in a column otherwise focused on rugby’s need to keep a hold of young talent and give kids in Australia new heroes to follow in the game, but it didn’t escape the notice of the NRL world.
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