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Toa Samoa star multi-million dollar switch ignite war of words in Australian rugby

Staff Reporters

APIA, SAMOA – 28 MARCH 2023: One of Toa Samoa’s Rugby League World Cup stars who came home and honoured his heritage by taking a Samoan matai title, signed a much anticipated multi-million dollar switch to the Wallabies in the weekend.

Anavaotaua Joseph Suaalii who has been described as a rugby prodigy – signed the three year deal with Rugby Australia worth $1.6 million per season – making him one of Australia’s most expensive sports stars.

He will join the Wallabies ahead of the 2024 Spring Tour which will give Wallabies Coach Eddie Jones time to see the back in the flesh 10 months out from the 2025 British and Irish Lions tour.

Suaalii is Rugby Australia’s biggest signing since Cheika lured Folau to the game ahead of the 2013 Lions series.

And Suaali’i’s code switch has ignited a war of words between the two codes in Australia with the Rugby Australia boss labelling the NRL “cry-babies”.

Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter V’landys took a swipe at Rugby Australia after Suaalii’s deal, suggesting Suaalii would get “terribly bored” of playing for the Wallabies.

Suaalii’s Roosters teammate Brandon Smith also took a jab at his friend’s deal, saying he would not help the Wallabies beat the All Blacks.

Joseph Suaalii ariel abilities
Joseph Suaalii ariel abilities

Displaying his skills in the air, Joseph Suaalii takes a catch before diving over to score a try against the Parramatta Eels at Suncorp Stadium, on May 15, 2022, in Brisbane. Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

However, Rugby Australia chair Hamish McLennan said the league’s reaction to Suaalii’s defection has been “hysterical”.

“They’re cry babies,” he told ABC Sport Daily.

“So, they’ve lost their rising star, their talent. Joseph has made the choice. I think they should respect his choice and they’re attacking his age and having a swing.

“The reality is, our guys travel the world. The current Wallaby crop will be playing at the third-biggest sporting event (Rugby World Cup) in France … our players get life experience that you wouldn’t get anywhere.”

Meanwhile, Suaalii’s NRL side, the Sydney Roosters, confirmed the 19-year-old would leave the club following the 2024 season.

“Joseph has been transparent with the club and we respect his decision,” Roosters head coach Trent Robinson said in a statement.

“He has made his commitment to the Roosters club for the next year and a half crystal clear, and we’re excited about the path we’re on.”

Suaalii thanked the Roosters for their role in developing his burgeoning career.

“The Sydney Roosters have been great to me and my family since I got here and the club is always going to be a big part of me,” he said.

“There’s still a long way to go in my journey with the Roosters and my sole focus is on working hard every day to keep improving and performing my role for the team.”

Wallabies coach Eddie Jones who lured Wendell Sailor, Lote Tuqiri and Mat Rogers, was pivotal in luring Suaalii to Australian rugby.

Suaalii, who played on the wing for the Australian Schoolboys during their upset win over New Zealand Schools in 2019, will play for the Waratahs.