Roosters phenom Joseph Suaalii took just 15 minutes to prove he deserves to play at the highest level.
The 17-year-old prodigy made an explosive pre-season debut on Saturday, scoring a brace of tries, including North Sydney’s first, in the NSW Cup pre-season game against Canberra in Queanbeyan.
The former rugby union talent also made a try-saving tackle in the first half, giving Roosters coach Trent Robinson plenty to think about when it comes time to naming his side for their season opener against Manly on March 13 — if the NRL allows Suaalii to be available for selection.
In one of the most highly-anticipated pre-season debuts, the 1.96m teenager described as a “once-in-a-generation” talent delivered on the hype when he played the entire first half in the centres for the Roosters’ NSW Cup feeder side, North Sydney.
His first try came off the back of a bomb to the Roosters right edge before the ball popped out and gifted Suaalii a two-on-one opportunity 20m out from the line.
Joseph Suaalii scored in 15 minutes. Photo: Kayo.Source:Supplied
Instead of passing to an unmarked winger, Suaalii charged at the Raiders’ winger and rode the contact through a nice 360-degree pirouette before planting the ball over the line.
It was easy to see why he has already been described as the next Greg Inglis.
The try showed off Suaalii’s weapon of being able to make defenders second guess with his “gangly” limbs.
“That’s what all the fuss is about,” NRL commentator Tony Salerno told Kayo.
“Those long gangly limbs are going to be trouble for all defenders that try and put him down.”
His second try came in the second half with a bewildering right foot step five-metres from the try line before a quick push with his left to charge over between two defenders.
The debut came after a long saga of wild contract demands and fierce games of tug-of-war between rival codes and then bitter rivals South Sydney and the Chooks.
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Suaalii signed with the tri-colours after abandoning Souths — who he played juniors for and signed a contract with before deciding he would take his talents elsewhere ahead of his arrival in the NRL.
The schoolboy rugby sensation — who last year officially chose league over the 15-man code, at least for now — impressed everyone while training with the Rabbitohs’ first grade squad last pre-season and it has long been a question of when, not if, he would graduate to the NRL.
Regulations stipulate a player must be 18 before making their first grade debut, but there is an ongoing push to blood Suaalii into the top tier before that occasion rolls around in August, such is his talent.
Former Bunnies enforcer Sam Burgess has raved about Suaalii previously, saying he already carries himself like a man on the field, while ex-NSW five-eighth Braith Anasta is also expecting big things.
Joseph Suaalii ditched the cardinal and myrtle.Source:Supplied
“Sam Burgess said to me about a year ago that this kid is a superstar,” Anasta told foxsports.com.au earlier this month.
“He said, ‘He is tough and there are kids we know at training who get involved with the first graders and you can see they are not quite ready for the collision’.
“But Sam was just raving about him. From that point of view and hearing people at Souths raving about him back then there is huge wraps on him and huge expectations and I think he will deliver.”
While there are no doubts about his physical gifts, the lingering question over Suaalii is how he will cope with the pressure of expectation put — somewhat unfairly, you’d have to say — on the shoulders of someone so young who hasn’t even played first grade yet.
Insiders suggest the humble kid from Sydney will be fine, but only time will tell.
Big things are expected of the teenage superstar.Source:News Corp Australia
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