Joseph Suaalii will be able to make his Sydney Roosters debut before his 18th birthday after being granted an exemption by the NRL.
- The ARLC has given the Roosters permission to select Suaalii before he turns 18
- The 17-year-old scored two tries for North Sydney in his NSW Cup debut
- North Queensland star Jason Taumalolo was the last player to debut in the NRL as a 17-year-old
The ARL Commission (ARLC) approved the Roosters’ application today, after several months of debate around the youngster’s availability.
The NRL met with Suaalii and his father, as well as Roosters coach Trent Robinson, before approving the application.
In striking the deal, the Roosters have agreed to create a wellbeing and mentoring plan, a gambling and alcohol management plan and an assurance Suaalii completes year 12.
NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo said the ARLC’s move to allow Suaalii to play prior to turning 18 had followed a “rigorous process”.
“Our decision is based on the independent advice of experts and information gathered from discussing Joseph’s school performance and discussions with the club and Joseph’s family,” Abdo said in a statement.
“Given Joseph turns 18 in just four months time, the conservative approach the Roosters are taking in managing Joseph’s career, and the comprehensive education and wellbeing plans that are being implemented, the Commission decided to grant the club permission for Joseph’s contract to be registered prior to him turning 18.
“We will continue to work closely with the Roosters to ensure the club complies with the plans and programs that have been put in place.”
Suaalii still faces a battle to be picked in the Roosters’ all-star backline, but is likely to be the next player called in if there is an injury.
Otherwise the Roosters face the prospect of being without James Tedesco in round 17 due to State of Origin, still before Suaalii’s August 1 birthday.
The 17-year-old centre scored two tries in his NSW Cup debut for North Sydney on Sunday, backing up the double he recorded in his first trial last month.
It means The King’s School year 12 student will juggle football with studies in 2021, after declaring a fortnight ago he thought he was ready.
Jason Taumalolo was the last player to debut in the NRL as a 17-year-old in 2010.
Under NRL rules introduced since Taumalolo’s debut, players are not able to feature in first grade before their 18th birthday.
But ARLC chair Peter V’landys declared last year he would assess the rule on a case-by-case basis amid hype around Suaalii’s future at South Sydney last year.