Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson is reportedly set to meet with Wallabies player Mark Nawaqanitawase about a potential switch from rugby to NRL. In what is being described as 'revenge' after Joseph Suaalii signed with Rugby Australia, the Roosters are said to be targeting Nawaqanitawase.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Robinson will meet with Nawaqanitawase next week to discuss jumping ship to the 13-man game. The Roosters will likely have Dominic Young and Daniel Tupou as their wingers in 2024, but Tupou appears to be coming to the end of his career.
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Nawaqanitawase has been a rare bright spot for the Wallabies over the last two years and held his own during Australia's poor World Cup campaign. The winger has scored 27 tries in 45 games for the NSW Waratahs, as well as five tries in 11 Test matches for the Wallabies.
With James Tedesco in the twilight of his career, Nawaqanitawase could be an option to take over as fullback if Tedesco hangs up the boots. Joey Manu has always expressed his desire to play fullback, but the Kiwi international is being heavily courted by the Dragons.
Nawaqanitawase's defection would be a huge coup for the NRL and Roosters, who will lose rising phenom Suaalii to the 15-man game at the end of the 2024 season. Suaalii will link up with the Waratahs after the NRL season next year on a deal thought to be worth around $5 million.
Joseph Suaalii keen to honour deal with Rugby Australia
The 20-year-old has reportedly moved to reassure Rugby Australia officials that he's still keen to fulfil his deal amid speculation he could backflip. Rumours have been circulating that Suaalii could look to renege on his deal and stay in the NRL after the Wallabies failed to make the quarter-finals of the recent World Cup for the first time in history.
Eddie Jones then departed as Wallabies coach, sparking more uncertainty for Suaalii. But according to reports, the outside back is still keen to make the switch and play at the next Rugby World Cup in Australia in 2027.
It was Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan who was responsible for signing Suaalii, not Jones. Whether McLennan remains in the role long-term remains to be seen, but the chairman declared recently that he won't be resigning despite widespread calls for him to stand down in the wake of the World Cup disaster.
"I want to stay to deliver the 2027 World Cup in Australia," he told the Sydney Morning Herald. "That has always been the big prize for Australian rugby. More destabilisation will just make matters worse just when we're about to break through. Life is not a continuous line of perfect calls and success. I came to rugby to find a way to fix it when it all fell over and despite the sad Eddie situation, this is another hurdle we'll overcome."
Roosters facing tricky decisions with off-contract stars
Leading NRL journalist Phil Rothfield stoked the flames around Suaalii last month when he said there would be "doubts" about whether he honours his rugby deal. "I’m hearing that Suaalii...will his deal be in doubt now?" Rothfield said. "Does he really want to leave a powerhouse club like the Roosters? A future in the NRL or go over and get belted?
"I know the British and Irish Lions are coming over here in a few years and the home World Cup. But I would not at all be surprised if they start investigating how to get out of that contract. This is a massive, massive story.”
Meanwhile, the Roosters have re-signed Connor Watson and Billy Smith as the club faces some tough decisions about which of its many off-contract stars can be retained. Manu, Luke Keary, Angus Crichton and Nat Butcher are all without deals beyond 2024.
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