Melbourne Storm great Billy Slater believes the NRL would be setting a “really dangerous” precedent should they greenlight the Roosters’ bid to allow teen sensation Joseph Suaalii to play this season ahead of his 18th birthday.
Under current NRL rules, Suaalii is currently unable to make his first-grade debut for the Roosters until he turns 18, which won’t be until August 1st.
However, the Roosters are eager to get their prodigy in the Tricolours this season, lobbying the NRL for a second time over the possibility of providing Suaalii an exemption from the league’s minimum age rule.
Despite reports suggesting the Roosters will be granted their exemption, it’s understood there are a number of hurdles the teenager still must get through.
One of the youngster’s very own idols, however, is not so won over by the idea.
Slater believes the league could be crossing into murky territory and weighed up the potential risks for allowing the youngster to take to the field prematurely.
“It’s a tricky one, I don’t know what the criteria is to accept this exemption,” Slater told WWOS Radio on 2GB.
“The NRL brought in the rule that you couldn’t play before your 18th birthday for a reason
“I don’t know what they look at, whether it’s the physical attributes or the mental or emotional strengths but I don’t know how you can accept one person then decline the next person.
“It’s a really tough one. If we let Joseph play, then he goes out there and injures himself because he’s not ready in terms of his (development) – it’s a really dangerous precedent to set. And I can’t see the NRL allowing him to play before his 18th birthday.”
Suaalii is still completing his schooling with the King’s School while at the Roosters.
Nine’s rugby league reporter Danny Weidler revealed NRL CEO Andrew Abdo will firstly need to meet with the headmaster of Suaalii’s highschool to discuss his development before any decision is made on his eligibility.
It is believed the NRL are also concerned over how Suaalii will be treated “in an environment where alcohol and gambling exist.”
With a raft of unknowns hanging above Sualii, Slater believed there was no harm in just waiting a few more months.
“We’ve come a long way since allowing players to play at 17. We’ve come a long way in the game,” He said.
“Look at the HIA and the protocols around that and how the thought processes around players has changed.
“I look at this situation and I just see – 17. What’s the damage in just waiting until August and then you’re eligible to play?”
Suaalii did get his first taste of the spotlight over the weekend, scoring two tries for the North Sydney Bears in a Canterbury Cup trial against the Canberra Raiders.