Rugby league’s most hyped teen prospect, Joseph Suaalii, says he’s ready for first-grade duties as the Sydney Roosters await the NRL’s decision on whether the young gun can take to the field early.
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, Suaalii did get his first taste in the spotlight last Saturday, scoring two tries for the North Sydney Bears in a Canterbury Cup trial against the Canberra Raiders.
Speaking for the first time since his debut, the young prodigy confirmed he’s aware of the hype and expectations on his shoulders but said he’s focused on just being the best person that he can be.
“I’m aware about the hype and all that stuff that is around, but I don’t really focus on that,” he told Nine News Sydney.
“I’m just focusing on playing and just trying to be the best footy player and the best person I can be.”
Before joining the Roosters, seventeen-year-old Suaalii had previously been at the centre of a bitter battle between rugby union and league, with multiple NRL clubs and Rugby Australia jostling to secure the young star’s signature before South Sydney released him to their arch-rival.
While still a student of The King’s School, Suaalii revealed he still has to focus on schooling commitments as he spends more time training with the Tricolours.
“Today I’m supposed to be at school,” he said.
“I do school twice or once a week and then I’m here [Roosters HQ] for the rest of the days.
“I don’t think it’s weird [to be a full-time footballer and go to school], I just try to be a normal kid when I’m at school.
“When I’m here [training], I try to be a kid as well, trying to learn as much as I can. Keeping both sides of the spectrum.”
Despite reports suggesting the Roosters will be granted an age exemption for Suaalii to potentially line-up as soon as round one, it’s understood there are a number of hurdles the teenager still must get through.
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.
It’s understood Abdo will then need to chat with Suaalii’s mentor at the Roosters, star centre Joseph Manu, on how he’s coping with everything that’s happening.
Weidler also revealed the NRL will want to know how Suaalii will be treated “in an environment where alcohol and gambling exist.”
But when asked if he was ready to go for the big stage, Suaalii didn’t take a step back.
“I feel as though I’m ready but I know there’s a lot of steps I need to take to get to that point,” Suaalii said.