In a surprise turn of events, the Daily Telegraph along with a few posters from the Wests Tigers Forum have linked the club as a potential destination for one of the most hyped prospects in recent memory in Joseph Suaalii.
I use the word surprised because it’s very rare that a talented player like Suaalii would find himself on the open market and it’s even more surprising that the Sydney Roosters haven’t already locked him up.
I don’t think I’ve seen this much hype for a player at this young of an age but both the South Sydney Rabbitohs and as well as Australian Rugby have desperately tried to lock up the 17-year-old long term which is a testament to the talent of the Schoolboy prodigy.
It appears that Suaalii has chosen to stay in the 13-man game but has been unable to agree on a deal with the Rabbitohs due to the various player options that his management is pushing for.
While I’m not advocating that the Tigers bow to these demands, I think this is a real opportunity for the Tigers to lock in a circuit breaking prodigy that could turn the fortunes of the club around if they can negotiate the right contract.
Suaali’is talent is undeniable for anyone who has seen the Kings student play.
Although I’ll admit that I’ve never seen him play Rugby League except for his famous highlight reel (below), I’ve seen a few Unions games that the South Sydney junior has participated in for the Kings school in the GPS competition as well as when Suaalii played for the Australian Schoolboys in 2019 and he was extremely impressive.
In my experience, Union is a harder game than league to display ability because there’s less space to work with and two extra defenders on the field which makes breaking the line harder than it is in league but Suaalii showed his potential particularly for the Australian Schoolboys in which he looked dangerous with all his touches of the ball from the wing.
Suaalii has the ability to beat a tackle as soon as the defender tilts his head to the ground due to his amazing footwork.
What makes Suaalii really special in my eyes however is his combination of great footwork along with the size and speed he possesses.
He genuinely reminds me of a bigger and stronger version of Kaylen Ponga and although there’s doubt as to whether Suaalii can reach that kind of potential, there’s no doubt that the Wallabies and South Sydney have shown their hand about what they think this kid can do at the top level by throwing the kitchen sink at them.
Ex-players like Sam Burgess as well as super coach Wayne Bennett have come out and stated that Suaalii is a special talent and it’s rumored one of the first things Dave Rennie did when he was appointed Wallabies coach was to drive to Western Sydney and convince the young gun to commit to Rugby.
As an outside viewer, this just tells me that the hype around Suaalii is justified so if the Tigers can secure his signature, it would be a huge accomplishment going forward.
In regards to how Suaali would fit with the Tigers, there’s no doubt that the young outside back would be the most talented player with the most upside to wear the number 1 jersey for the club since James Tedesco left.
Having someone like Suaalii in the Tigers system would honestly feel like the club winning the number 1 pick in the draft and there hasn’t been a player this talented in our system since Luke Brooks and Mitchell Moses were coming through in the early 2010’s.
Honestly, one thing that the Wests Tigers have been missing in recent years has been talent.
How many times have Tigers fans looked at the opposition team sheets like the Sydney Roosters or the Melbourne Storm and thought that their 1-17 was on par on behind the Tigers team sheet?
In a nutshell, the Gold Coast Titans will probably have a team on paper than the Tigers going into 2021 but Joseph’s Suaalii’s ability as a ball runner could change this perception.
There’s no doubt that Suaalii is a development project due to his age but his size and athleticism make me think that he’ll be ready for first grad sooner rather than later. Michael Maguire is well known for his use of the power game up the middle which is why Suaalii is the perfect type of Fullback for the Tigers.
Suaalii has the size to be very effective as a ball carrier coming off kick returns and his evasion and speed will eventually make him deadly whenever he touches the ball in attacking plays when he chooses to run.
Suaalii is also a natural fullback as oppose to Josh Addo-Carr who the club has also been linked to.
While I would be more than happy to try the Fox at Fullback, I think Addo-Carr will eventually find his way back to the wing simply because he’s the best in the world in this position and in my mind, there’s question marks about what Addo-Carr can create for others when there isn’t much space to work with in attack.
People are going to crucify me in the comments but if I was to choose between the two players, I would go with Joseph Suaalii because although Addo-Carr would make the Tigers a better team, Suaalii presents the Tigers with an opportunity to sign a circuit breaking signing that could lift the Tigers out of the perpetual rebuild that they have found themselves in.
I genuinely believe Suaalii has the potential to be a transcendent player in the NRL within a few years which is why the Tigers need to jump at the opportunity to sign him while he’s available.
The kind of contract that can be negotiated with Suaalii is the biggest stumbling block for any club to sign the young gun.
With the pressure of winning in professional sport, no team can run the risk of a star player being able to contractually demand more money or walk away from his contract entirely.
However, if I was a part of the Tigers recruitment team, I would genuinely be curious about the goals and aspirations that Suaalii has that makes him want such flexibility in his contract.
There’s rumors that Suaalii wants to participate in a Rugby World cup as well as the Olympics in either 7’s rugby or track and field.
Playing for the Wallabies is a clear red flag because there’s no guarantee that Suaalii would return to League but I think the Tigers should be open to letting Suaalii chase his Olympics dreams due to the fact that the games are only profitable every 4 years for athletes which would be a strong incentive to come back to league.
Suaalii is a great example of a duel athlete which is why the Tigers should come to negations with an open mind.
The Tigers should absolutely aim to secure Suaalii without any player options but I wouldn’t be opposed to allowing Suaalii a year off to train for the Olympics on the condition that he returns to the Wests Tigers after.
Obviously, everything in this article is speculative so it’s possible that agreeing on a deal isn’t likely but with Souths appearing to burn their bridges with Suaalii along with the fact that the Roosters are trying to sign James Tedesco leads to the fact that the Wests Tigers are a great fit for the young prodigy.
Image: Rugby Australia