NRL won't entertain war chest to stop Suaalii move

March 25, 2023 04:55 PM AEDT | By AAPNEWS
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Andrew Abdo has declared the NRL will not open a war chest to stop players moving to rugby union, claiming he is unfazed by Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii's looming defection.

Suaalii is expected to sign a deal with Rugby Australia to move to the 15-man code for 2025, with reports the 19-year-old will ink a deal worth $1.6 million a year.

He is yet to tell Roosters teammates of his decision, but Luke Keary admitted on Saturday he expected the teenage star to swap codes.

The shift will allow Suaalii to play for Australia against the British and Irish Lions in 2025, with a World Cup also ahead in 2027.

Suaalii's move will be rugby's biggest coup out of the NRL in two decades, after Mat Rogers, Wendell Sailor and Lote Tuqiri all crossed codes in the early 2000s.

The league experimented with the idea of a war chest to stop players from leaving the code in 2014, with the idea first floated by David Smith.

The financial package was never used and NRL chief executive Abdo said there was no need to reintroduce the idea to keep Suaalii.

"The beauty is, we don't have to," Abdo told ABC Radio. 

"We have increased funding to clubs so we have viable clubs. And the commission have focused on making sure the salary in our new offer is a significant increase. 

"The salary cap level that it is at the moment, and the growth for men and women, we are going to be attracting athletes of the future. That is exciting."

Abdo also stressed he had no concerns about a talent drain to rugby, after months of threats by new Wallabies coach Eddie Jones to lure the 13-man game's best players.

"Good luck to any player who wants to go and play another code, that's great for them," Abdo said.

"Good luck to any other code, if they are thinking about a rugby league pathway to access talent. 

"We are focused on our pathway. We want to make sure we have young people in schools and clubs. 

"This game, what I love about it, is how many talented athletes we keep producing across, Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific."

Keary said he expected Suaalii to follow a similar path to Sonny Bill Williams, who had two stints in both codes and pursued boxing away from rugby.

The five-eighth also had no concern about Suaalii leaving the Roosters early, after taking up an option for 2024 earlier this month.

"We know this is happening, and good on him," Keary told on Triple M.

"His main thing is he wants to win a premiership. He hasn't spoken about rugby too much. I know he is all in with us. 

"I think we are about to see a Sonny Bill-esque type career. He finishes that World Cup if he goes, he will be 24 years old. Hopefully we see him again in the NRL after that."


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