Rugby League

Phil Gould’s warning to NRL over Joseph Suaalii precedent that could ‘come back to bite us’

Phil Gould has fired a warning at the NRL over the move to bend the age requirements to keep teen sensation Joseph Suaalii in the game.

Under NRL rules players cannot debut before their 18th birthday, but Suaalii looks set to sign with the Rabbitohs on his 17th birthday on August 1 and be an exception to that rule.

“There was a couple reasons why we’ve got the age limit put at 18 before you can play in the NRL,” Gould said on Channel 9s 100% Footy.

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“One was to lower expectations on players, player managers and particularly parents about just how good their kid is and just how much money he should be earning. The other thing was we didn’t want players being signed up by player managers too young.

“They were running and jumping the fences to sign any 15-year-old who scores a try. It was just a bad look for the game.

“And stock-piling a heap of kids and getting their hopes and dreams up when the chances of them actually making it are so slender – you’ve got be realistic with these kids.”


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The rangy teenager has athletic gifts beyond his years, but Gould cautioned that allowing Suaalii to play before he turns 18 was setting a dangerous precedent.

“I wouldn’t like them to make an exception here [for Suaalii]. I don’t think it’s a good rule to change. I really don’t,” Gould said.

“I think that’s contrary to what we’re trying to do in managing the expectations, the money for our development players and just where they go to.

“I know he’s an exceptional kid at that age but other kids catch up pretty quickly.

South Sydney’s Joseph Suaalii has yet to test himself against men in a game.Source:Supplied

“This kid may well be too, I just think it’s too much, too early. I just don’t like the look of it and I just don’t like the feel of it. You’ve just got to be careful you’re not setting a precedent that’s going to come back and bite us down the track.”

Sharks legend Paul Gallen questioned the amount of money being invested in a young man that is unproven in senior rugby league.

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“I’m not against playing first grade at 17,” Gallen said.

“If you’re good enough you’re old enough. But to be signing a bloke on $500,000 who hasn’t played a game against a man… let’s hope he’s good enough.”

Originally published asGus’ warning to NRL over Suaalii precedent that could ‘come back to bite us’

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