Joseph Suaalii’s decision to choose Samoa over Australia has sparked a conspiracy theory he is trying to play fullback at the World Cup to agitate for a move away from the Roosters.
Paul Kent believes Suaalii was keen to play fullback on the world stage to put himself in the shop window for NRL rivals, so that he can change positions and clubs at club level.
“Let me put one for the cynics out there,” Kent said.
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“What about the fact that he had a busted game the other day when he moved to fullback and didn’t play all that well.
“He gets the promise of playing fullback for Samoa at the World Cup when he would have only at best been a winger for Australia because Tedesco is the fullback.
“So he puts himself in the shopfront window and he has now begun the agitation to get himself out of the Roosters deal.
“I’m a fullback, I want to be considered as a fullback and I am going to negotiate as a fullback.”
Phil Rothfield agreed that the chance to showcase his skills as a fullback would have been a factor in Suaalii’s decision.
“I agree with you the opportunity to play fullback was obviously more appealing,” Rothfield said.
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“He could see Samoa have got a really good side. It is going to help him in the shop window if he has a barnstormer at the World Cup.”
However, Brent Read believes that is an unfair conclusion to draw given that Suaalii said his reasons were based on representing his family heritage.
“I think that is really unfair on Joseph Suaalii to suggest that he is doing this to play fullback,” Read said.
“I think that is a ridiculous assertion for a 19-year-old kid to say that he has chosen Samoa over Australia because he can play fullback.
“I think that is madness and I think that is a really cynical view and really unfair on Joseph.
“I have spoken to him. I didn’t ask him about if he had done it to play fullback. I asked him why he had done it and he said it was about family. It was about family and honouring his family who sacrificed so much for him over his 19 years.”
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However, Rothfield believes both conclusions can be true at the same time.
“I think it is a bit of both, I think he is a proud and passionate Samoan,” Rothfield said.
“But I also think combined with that a percentage of his decision was around the opportunity to play fullback.”
Braith Anasta asked Read if Suaalii’s management could have influenced him.
“You don’t think it is anything to do with his manager and a business decision?” Anasta asked.
“No, I’m sure his manager Isaac Moses spoke to him about it, but the decision would have been Suaalii’s decision ultimately and his family’s decision,” Read said.
Kent has no doubt Suaalii would have made the final call, but warned he would have more experienced people in his ear.
“Of course it would have been his decision, but he is young impressionable kid,” Kent said.
“He is taking advice from people much older and more experienced than him and if he maybe got a call from the Australian coach maybe he would have listened to him as well.”