NSW coach Michael Maguire defends Joseph Suaalii selection decision

28/05/2024
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NSW boss Maguire stands up for Joseph Suaalii

Joseph Suaalii has plans to switch to rugby union at the end of the 2024 NRL season

News Insights

  • Joseph Suaalii announced in 2023 that he would be switching to rugby.
  • Suaalii signed a three-year deal with Rugby Australia and the New South Wales Waratahs worth $2 million a year through the 2027 Rugby World Cup in Australia.
  • Many fans felt Suaalii should be nowhere near a NSW rugby league squad.
  • When asked about the decision to call up Suaalii, Maguire defended the player and hit out at the NRL 360 panellists.

NSW coach Michael Maguire was confronted about his decision to call up 20-year-old Sydney Roosters star Joseph Suaalii in his Origin Series squad on NRL 360 this week. The young centre has already committed to switching to rugby union after the 2024 NRL season. To many, Suaalii’s name should not have been considered for selection. 

Maguire’s controversial call 

Sydney Roosters’ centre Joseph Suaalii shocked the NRL in March 2023 when his plans to switch to rugby union were revealed. The then-teenager announced that he would be making a code switch following the end of his Roosters contract in 2024. Suaalii signed a three-year deal with Rugby Australia and the New South Wales Waratahs worth $2 million a year through the 2027 Rugby World Cup in Australia. 
 
Suaalii was, and still is, one of the hottest young prospects in the NRL. Rugby league executives, commentators, and fans did not react well to the move.  
 
ARLC Commissioner Peter V'landys made several passive aggressive comments about rugby union and Suaalii.  
 
“Rugby union is boring, slow, and a hard-to-watch game,” V'landys said before the move was finalised. After it was announced, the commissioner said “It's hard to blame Joseph for going to rugby and considering it as his future when he is going to be paid twice the money for doing half the work.” 
 
Former Roosters boss Phil Gould was more damning. “Go now. Don't let the door hit you on the arse on the way out. Go. Go now. Gone. He's made his decision. You sign a contract for rugby 18 months before his league contract ends,” he said in 2023.  
 
Given the controversial move, many fans felt Suaalii should be nowhere near a NSW rugby league squad. Maguire disagreed. 

Maguire hits out at Buzz Rothfield 

Michael Maguire was a guest on Monday’s NRL 360 to talk about his Blues squad. When asked about the decision to give Suaalii his State of Origin debut, Maguire defended the player and hit out at the panellists. 
 
“Another debutant in this game, Joey Suaalii, I know you’ve known him for a long time, but there were some people that didn’t think he should be eligible for selection, including one bloke at this table,” journalist Brent Read said, teeing up the conversation by pointing out his colleague Phil Rothfield’s dismay at Suaalii’s inclusion.  
 
“What’s the thought process there?”Read asked Maguire.  
 
“I’ve known Joey since he was 13 and I know his dreams. I tried to sign Joey as a young kid coming through so you get to know your people.” Maguire said.  
 
“Joey is as passionate about rugby league as any of us,” the Blues boss said, hitting back at Rothfield saying that Suaalii is a rugby union player now.  
 
“I guess I’m living in the now and he’s been performing really well for his club and he deserves everything he gets. In time he’ll move on to that part of what he’s doing in his life, but I know Joey’s going to be sensational for us,” Maguire concluded. 

NSW and Suaalii  take on Queensland at Sydney's Accor Stadium on June 15. The Maroons are slight -1.5 point favourites at PlayUp Sportsbook. NSW will be hoping to upset the odds and end their two-year losing streak against their bitter rivals. 

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