The new chairman for Rugby Australia, Daniel Herbert, has hinted at a change in approach regarding recruitment from the NRL. However, he has stated that there are no immediate plans to back out of the significant financial commitment made to Joseph Suaalii by the organization. Suaalii, a rising star from the Roosters, has signed a $1.6m deal to move to rugby, with half of the amount funded by donations.
Former chairman Hamish McLennan, who played a key role in Suaalii’s recruitment, has suggested that rugby needs an infusion of talent from league. However, Herbert made it clear that the focus should be on developing and protecting the existing talent within the game. He emphasized that he would not engage in discussions about players and contracts, leaving those matters to CEO Phil Waugh.
While there have been speculations about Suaalii reconsidering his move to rugby in light of recent developments in the World Cup and the leadership changes within Rugby Australia, Herbert confirmed that there are no current efforts to terminate the contract with Suaalii.
On the other hand, McLennan expressed confidence in Suaaliii’s potential to revitalize rugby, emphasizing the need for star players to make a difference. He also reiterated his belief that the sport lacks depth and could benefit from A-grade talent like Suaalii.
Meanwhile, the former Wallabies coach, Eddie Jones, and rugby league star, James Graham, discussed Suaalii’s move to rugby in a podcast. They both recognized the potential pressure and expectations that Suaalii will face but highlighted his professionalism and dedication to his craft. Jones stressed the importance of coaching and performance in helping Suaalii become a great role model for the sport.
Despite the NRL’s decision to offer salary cap relief to teams recruiting from union, Jones does not anticipate a large exodus of rugby players to league. He suggested that the damage is being done at the school level, and the NRL’s strategy may serve as a PR move more than a substantial recruitment initiative.