The National Rugby League (NRL) is not likely to permit Joey Manu to juggle between a deal with the Roosters and a contract with Japanese rugby in the future. But it may happen eventually and the Roosters appear capable of handling it. The Australian Rugby League Commission is unlikely to allow any NRL player, let alone a star like Manu, to play rugby in Japan or elsewhere during an active NRL contract. However, Manu and the Roosters could potentially sign short-term deals annually, allowing Manu to return to the club after playing rugby in Japan.
This strategy could potentially result in the Roosters receiving a discounted rate for Manu’s services. NRL players’ contracts typically start on November 1st, with salaries evenly split over 12 months. This means that if Manu played Japanese rugby from December to May, he could sign a short-term deal for the remainder of the season. It would require approval from the NRL Salary Cap team, but the Roosters could pay “market rate” for Manu’s services for the rest of the year.
A similar move was pulled off by St George Illawarra in 2010 when Mark Gasnier returned to the NRL from a French rugby stint. Manu could potentially earn over $2 million by playing in both codes in 2025 after his current deal with the Roosters expires. While it may be unlikely for Manu to do this on an ongoing basis, it is not out of the realm of possibility. The idea of a player playing in both union and league is not new, but it could present challenges.
As a marquee player, Manu is different from the average player, but the scenario has been proven feasible with examples of players switching between rugby and league. It was common for Australian rugby league players to play in both the UK and Australian competitions in the past. Manu’s likely scenario would be to play in Japan after his current contract expires and then return to the Roosters with a long-term deal. He has expressed interest in playing fullback in the future, potentially replacing current Roosters captain James Tedesco.