Joseph Suaalii and his family have reached out to Roosters officials and players with private messages of thanks for their support after he signed a mega deal last weekend to return to rugby union. But they haven’t eased the anger some are feeling about the way the deal was done.
There is no question Suaalii is a class act on and off the field. There are some at the Roosters who feel wronged by the process by which he signed a multimillion-dollar deal worth at least $5.4 million over three years to join rugby from 2025.
Nick Politis, Joseph Suaalii and Peter V’landys.Credit:Kate Geraghty, NRL Photos, Tim Bauer
In fact, the Roosters may have inadvertently sabotaged their own attempts to keep Suaalii in the red, white and blue.
Roosters chairman Nick Politis has never had an easy relationship with player manager Isaac Moses, but that did not stop him from putting aside their differences and helping facilitate a meeting that no one else in the game could have.
Politis is a good-hearted bloke, but he is also a very astute businessman whose financial standing – his net worth is estimated at about $2 billion – says everything.
With Moses deregistered and struggling to get back into rugby league as an agent, Politis set up a meeting with him and ARL Commission chairman Peter V’landys. This was at a time when no one wanted to know Moses and he was not allowed to do business with NRL clubs.
Moses was deregistered in 2021 after he was found to have breached his obligations as an agent in 2017 when he assisted former client Tim Mannah to give evidence to the NRL that was false and intended to mislead an investigation into Parramatta. Moses’ ban was lifted in August 2022.
At the meeting late in 2021, Moses spoke to V’landys, who is the most powerful man in rugby league; and one of the most influential figures in the game – Politis – set it up. Moses got to state his case to V’landys, explaining how he is good for the game and how he not only fairly represents his players, but also brings sponsorship dollars into the game by placing the best talent at the best clubs. V’landys is no mug, and even the greatest pitch would fall on deaf ears. Regardless, it was an act of goodwill from two of the heaviest hitters in the game.
However, each of them would be entitled to question themselves after the events of the past fortnight regarding Suaalii. Politis is not happy with the way things panned out. He has not forgotten that meeting 18 months ago.
He was still confident two weeks ago that Suaalii was going to stay with his club. They have already invested well in excess of $1 million in him and would have looked after him for the remainder of his playing career, and beyond.
Politis thought the level of care they have shown Suaalii and his family was going to count for something. Politis and his board took a personal interest in the charity the Suaalii family runs, Reach Out NSW. Yet, during the negotiations the Roosters felt they were not made aware of how far things had progressed with Suaalii’s impending switch to rugby.
Moses has been heavily praised by rugby, and Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan has gone out of his way to back Moses against those who have sought to attack him over the Suaalii deal.
RA has also strongly denied it will be paying the commission for the deal directly to Moses, meaning
Suaalii will need to stump in the order of $300,000 unless Moses is operating for publicity only, which has been rumoured.
V’landys gave up his time to meet with Moses, yet he is now dealing with the fallout of the Suaalii move, defending his code against strong attacks from RA.
Meanwhile, in the background, Moses is counting the dollars from his return to league.
Jorgensen had a Ted start
Rugby’s brightest young star Max Jorgensen has been promised he will be swimming in the code’s upcoming rivers of gold, courtesy of the British and Irish Lions tour in 2025 and a home World Cup in 2027.
The Roosters, and several other NRL clubs, have shown plenty of interest in Jorgensen, 18.
Roosters players who trained with him when he was a schoolboy were stunned by his speed and agility. It’s a comparison not many will believe, but players have told me he reminded them of their superstar skipper, James Tedesco. Rugby Australia chairman McLennan says the game will look after Jorgensen financially, and that he won’t miss out due to the huge amount splashed on Suaalii.
Cleary a perfect 10
The player being mentioned as a long-term project for rugby – superstar halfback Nathan Cleary – is probably out of their reach.
Rugby insiders say that while they know it is a long shot, it is something worth considering down the track.
And what has given them some hope was an interview on Nine News during the week where Cleary admitted to having an interest in rugby.
Nathan Cleary is another NRL player rugby would love to get its hands on.Credit:Getty
Earlier this year, Cleary had a “fan boy” moment when he did some kicking work with his boyhood idol, All Blacks great Dan Carter. Cleary grew up in New Zealand, where rugby is the sport.
Wallabies coach Eddie Jones is known to be a Cleary fan and he has shown in the past that he isn’t scared of chasing the biggest names. Jones made a big bid to lure Andrew Johns to rugby 20-odd years ago and almost had him before officials backed out.
Cleary would be a natural at No.10, and his passing and kicking game would translate well.
It is interesting to note that South Sydney chief executive Blake Solly and the new NSW Premier Chris Minns are close friends, so a potential Rabbitohs return to playing at Allianz Stadium is sure to become a story again.
They have been mates for 25 years, going back to their days as members of Young Labor.
The Roosters will not like hearing that.
Speaking of the Roosters, one of the best sights of the season so far was seeing Angus Crichton at the footy on Thursday night. Crichton has taken a lot of positive steps since his recent mental health diagnosis.
Dogged Pearce pursuit
Trying to lure Mitchell Pearce back to the NRL from France is not an entirely new idea.
Before he returned to Europe after his initial season with Catalans Dragons in 2022 he met with Bulldogs general manager Phil Gould, coach Cameron Ciraldo and recruitment manager Peter Sharp to discuss a potential stint. He told the Bulldogs his days in the NRL were over and that some pressure-free football in the Super League was his preference.
The interest Wests Tigers have shown in Pearce demonstrates the lack of quality halves coming through the ranks. There is no doubt the Tigers would like him for his ability to provide direction and experience. Tigers coach Tim Sheens admitted during the week that the club had reached out to Pearce but he had other plans.
The Bulldogs made their approach with plenty of time leading into a season, but for the Tigers to suddenly decide Pearce was their Mr Fix-It shows the difference in rebuilds at both clubs.
The Bulldogs’ rebuild could land them in the top eight, with more good signings arriving next season. The Tigers are already having trouble cracking it for a win and the pressure is growing by the day on club bosses and Sheens.
Rivals on the hunt
Rival NRL clubs are keeping a close eye on Dragons skipper Ben Hunt as the pressure builds on coach Anthony Griffin, despite a morale-boosting win on Saturday night.
It is hard to see Griffin surviving at the Dragons, and his next role in the NRL is likely to be as an assistant coach rather than as the main man.
If he does move on, Hunt’s reaction will be interesting, given he is the coach’s biggest supporter. It would not surprise to see other clubs checking in to see how Hunt is feeling if, or when, Griffin leaves.
In a competition short on quality and experienced halves, Hunt would be highly sought after and could make the same kind of money he is on or more at rival teams.
Trell backs change
Latrell Mitchell is not scared of taking on the big issues, but his outspoken views on the negative impacts on the game of gambling won’t get much traction due to the big dollars spent by gambling companies on advertising. Mitchell is convinced that at least some of the racial hatred that he has to put up with is the result of punters losing their money.
“I raise the racism because if we don’t keep talking about it, it won’t change,” he said. “Of course it’s frustrating that it keeps on happening, that the behaviour goes on at homes and kids learn it, but stop being like that or leave it at home.
“There is no doubt that some of it is driven by people who are gambling, who are losing. I don’t need to be abused because you are losing in your multis. Nor do other players. Just shut up. You’ve got to know that when you are gambling you will lose and to blame me or other players is ridiculous. I don’t need the messages in my DMs. Leave it alone.”
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