A host of league legends have urged Roosters young gun Joseph Suaalii to remain at the club, even if it means he can’t play fullback immediately.
Suaalii’s future has been a hot topic, with the 19-year-old’s camp reportedly keen on him playing in the No.1 jersey sooner rather than later.
However, with skipper and incumbent Roosters No.1 James Tedesco signing an extension through to the 2025 season, Suaalii will have to leave the club if he wants to make the positional transition immediately.
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Storm legend and NRL games record holder Cameron Smith urged Suaalii to “bide his time”, saying the Roosters offer him an experience no other club can.
“I know with James Tedesco it’s going to be very hard to take him out of that No.1 jersey, but he’s learning so much at this club, he’s got wonderful players around him,” he said on Nine’s NRL coverage.
“There’s every chance they could possibly go all the way to the grand final and win a premiership, so when you have a chance to play with great players like Tedesco and Keary and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, I think you take that opportunity and stick around as long as you can.
“His strength in the game is his physical attributes, his speed, power and size, but you’re talking about improving his game-awareness and his skill level.
“Learning from someone like James Tedesco, he’s not going to get that from any other club.
“James Tedesco is the best fullback in the world and if he has aspirations of playing in the No.1 jersey, why not stick around and learn from the best, and when your time comes, take that No.1 jersey.”
Suaalii’s conundum made legendary halfback Johnathan Thurston think back to early stages of his career when he had to play out of position at the Canterbury Bulldogs, where he eventually won a premiership before departing for the Cowboys.
Thurston echoed Smith’s statement and said Suaalii’s decision would come down to money versus winning.
“I had Braith (Anasta) and Brent Sherwin, so I had to bide my time there. I learnt so much from that playing group,” he recalled.
“He just needs to think, does he want the success or does he want the money? That’s what it’ll come down to.
“If he wants to play fullback, then he’s going to have to go somewhere else. But if he wants success, he’s got an opportunity to win some premierships by the time he’s 22 or 23 years old with this playing group.”
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Legendary halfback Andrew Johns said there were “weaknesses” in Suaalii’s game that need to be addressed before he makes the positional switch.
“When the knock or phone call comes that he’s going to play fullback, he’s got to be ready to go,” he said.
“I heard Billy Slater talk on commentary about not seeing his ball-playing or his passing, which for fullbacks now, you’re the modern-day five-eighth, you’re the one that links with the middle of the field and the outside backs.
“He’s got to continue to work on his game, work on his weaknesses, which I don’t think he has too many of.
“He’s going to play rep football this year, he just needs to learn and get his body ready.”
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