Here’s the lowdown on how the Sydney Roosters orchestrated one of the big recruiting stunts by poaching teenage superstar Joseph Suaalii away from the grip of their big rivals South Sydney.
When it comes to big signings, the Roosters’ Suaalii game ranks among Uncle Nick Politis’ best, including Cooper Cronk, Sonny Bill Williams, Brad Fittler and Phil Gould.
What made it even sweeter, Suaalii had been in the South Sydney system at Redfern since he was 14 years old.
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The Roosters called BS on ex-boss Shane Richardson’s Bunnies claim about the Habs paying more teenage gun money.
The Fox League have confirmed that South Sydney have offered Suaalii a four-year contract worth $2.55 million to start in 2021.
The Roosters landed the young gun-toting teenager on a four-year deal for $1.92 million.
The deciding factor for the Bunnies was that Suaalii management insisted on an exit clause in the deal every year, which meant the teenager was free to leave provided they told South Sydney no later than the 11th round. .
SuperCoach Wayne Bennett was still in charge of Redfern at the time and told the teenager there was no way the clauses would be included.
Bennett simply repeated the old line that there was no “I” in the team.
At this point Suaalii management put the roosters on the hook and Politis traveled to Western Sydney to break bread with his family and begin the process of bringing him to Bondi Junction.
The Roosters quickly realized the release clauses were the circuit breaker to complete the deal, accepted them, and eventually signed Suaali’i to a four-year contract worth $1.92 million.
In his first season in the NRL with the Habs last year, Suaalii received a minimum salary of $120,000.
He goes up to $350,000 this season, which is clearly good value considering the way the 19-year-old has played.
For the record, Suaalii has already made the option to stay with the Roosters for next season and the club are actively working to try to get him locked up for 2024 as well.
The Bunnies are still furious that the Roosters are claiming credit for Suaalii’s rise to stardom as longtime Rabbitohs supporter Steve Nasteski is believed to be the talent scout who first identified the teenager prodigy.
Nasteski is an art dealer by trade and remains adamant art dealers always have the best eye.
The multi-millionaire businessman even went so far as to pay AFL star Michael O’Loughlin to coach the ex-Souths rookie on how best to catch a Steeden.
Luca Ace-Nasteski, the son of Suaalii and Nasteski, would meet O’Loughlin at Erskineville Oval for practice.
Both Suaalii and Ace-Nasteski played together at South Sydney side Harrold Matthews and SG Ball before the Roosters orchestrated one of their best coups against nemesis Rabbitohs.
The rabbits will have to add another chapter to the book of feuds.
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NAS AND JWH GO TO WAR
The usual suspicious fence guards defending Nelson Asofa-Solomona have to defog their rose-tinted glasses.
Everyone loved the showdown aspect of the two Alpha males NAS and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves putting on the gloves and going to war like a pair of old school rowers.
It was shades of Paul Harragon and Mark Carroll or Steve Roach and Les Davidson back then, just two big units engaged in rolling street combat.
Every time one of them got the Steeden, the other inevitably wanted to lock the horns.
It was a brilliant rugby league theater and it was JWH who emerged victorious on the points despite the sin.
Where NAS was down was when the Storm prop tried to block Roosters rookie Joseph Suaalii with a snap of the elbow as the Habs winger’s head was about to hit the turf.
It was dangerous any way you looked at it and he’s lucky to have avoided spending time on the sidelines.
Most pundits shook their heads seeing how Asofa-Solomona avoided suspension for a similar incident when he knocked out two of Warriors hooker Wayde Egan’s front teeth in round 20.
Either way, the 200cm giant Storm has been given the green light and now we’re all waiting for the next installment against his Kiwi Test teammate JWH in the finals.
It will also be a fierce battle between the NAS great and Parramatta’s Junior Paulo to open Round 25 on Thursday night when the Eels host the Storm with a top-four spot on the line.
Ding, ding, ding.
SATTLER’S ULTIMATE COMPLIMENT
Penrith 2003 Grand Final icon Scott Sattler paid Jared Waerea-Hargreaves the ultimate compliment when he compared the Roosters’ first rower to his famous father John, the South Sydney champion who played the Grand Final of 1970 with a broken jaw.
Speaking on the Fox League podcast earlier this week, Sattler recalled seeing JWH as a young gun playing rugby for Manly in 2007 and immediately wanting to sign him up for the Gold Coast Titans.
The Manly Sea Eagles and then the Sydney Roosters eventually won the race for the forward champion, but that didn’t stop Sattler from naming JWH as one of his favorite early rowers of all time.
“I like the way he sides with the opposition, it’s like a one man army, he actually reminds me a bit of my dad as a player where you talk about being the protector and he is kind of like the silverback isn’t it,” Sattler told the Fox League Podcast.
“He’s just telling everyone to listen, I’m going to put on the bulletproof vest and take all the hits and I’ll let you guys do what you gotta do, but don’t worry about me, I’ll hold the fort.
“I love that about him, I love his passion, I love his emotion, I love the love he has for his teammates, I love how proud he is of this club and this jersey.
“Imagine being a young player coming into this club and if you have a cocky half small step at the start of your career, someone like Jared would chip at you early enough in your career to tell you to toe the line because if you don’t don’t you’ll find another club.
“He’s a bit like one of those players who, as a coach, is like having another coach. When the coach falls asleep, he turns his back, he has players who will continue with the values, traditions and philosophy that the club wants to try and continually seek. “He was one of my favorite first rowers, if not my first favorite rower to come into the ranks.”
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LEAGUE RAID ON UNION
For all the huffs and puffs from the rugby unions about the opening of the $10m checkbook to target NRL players, the elbow pad brigade may want to get some order in first their own backyard.
The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs have dealt rugby union and the Wests Tigers a major blow by tearing up the signature of Wallaby striker Bill Young’s son, Patrick Young.
A lock for the Balmain Tigers in the Harrold Matthews competition, Young is seen as a prototype similar to Cameron Murray in South Sydney, with the Bulldogs quietly celebrating having landed the young gun’s signature on a two-year contract as a development player at from 2023.
Young was the player who scored the winning try in the infamous Leichhardt Oval game between GPS rugby teams St Joseph’s and Riverview when one of the Eighth Wonder of the World’s railings collapsed.
Either way, the Bulldogs landed a solid emerging player in the former Wallaby forward’s son.
The other young rugby union gun that every NRL club is lining up for is the son of former Sydney Rooster and Penrith Panther Peter Jorgensen, who also played for the Wallabies.
Max Jorgensen played back for St Josephs and is considered the best player on the schoolboys rugby circuit.
Talk about sleepy rugby union behind the wheel.
BOB’S FITTING GOODBYE
EVERYONE in rugby league knows the affable Bob Lanigan – the NRL champion pitch manager who literally devoted his life to the game. Whether it was scoring goals for Newtown in the 1960s, playing bush footy for Griffith and Dapto to name a few of his clubs, or being one of the first faces you see in footy every weekend as NRL Ground Manager Bobby always had time for everyone. On Friday night at SCG, Bobby will sign after 23 years of service as the NRL’s ground manager. In a touch of NRL quality, Bobby will ring the bell two minutes before kick-off at the grand opening of the new Allianz Stadium when the Roosters host rivals South Sydney. It’s a fitting dispatch for a guy who has done service to rugby league his whole life.