NRL: Phil Gould hits out at rugby-bound Sydney Roosters star Joseph Suaalii

Former coach turned pundit Phil Gould believes Joseph Suaalii should leave rugby league immediately, after the Sydney Roosters star signed a multi-million dollar deal to switch codes at the end of next season.

On Saturday, Rugby Australia confirmed the 19-year-old sensation had inked a three-year deal to join NSW Waratahs worth AU$1.5 million (NZ$1.6m). 

Earlier this month, Suaalii signed a one-year extension with the Roosters, meaning he'll remain with the club until the end of the 2024 season.

But in no uncertain terms, Gould has implored Suaalii to cut his ties with the Roosters now rather than play out the remainder of his contract.

"Every time he scores a try, every time he does something in our game people are going to refer to the fact that he’s going to rugby," Gould said on Australian network Channel Nine's 100% Footy.

"Why do we need that? 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.

Suaalii in action.
Suaalii in action. Photo credit: Getty Images

"You can't sign with any other rugby league club in that time. He can only sign somewhere else. He’s made his decision. 

"I have nothing against the kid. I've loved having him in the NRL. He's a tremendous athlete and is great for the game. 

"But he’s decided to be a rugby player. Bye bye. Off you go."

Suaalli's deal will make him one of the highest paid players in Australian Rugby history. He will be eligible to be part of Edde Jones' squad for the European tour at the end of 2024, leading into the British and Irish Lions visit in 2025.

The Penrith product starred at schoolboy level in the 15-man code, before signing with South Syndey Rabbitohs in 2019. in 2021, he was releaesd from the final year of his contract to join the Roosters. He also represented Samoa at last year's Rugby League World Cup.

NSW State of Origin coach Brad Fittler has admitted he'd have no issues selecting Suaalii for his squad if his form warranted it.

Gould said he understood Fittler's position but wouldn't go down the same track himself.

"I wouldn’t pick him but I can understand the attraction of having him in the side," he said. 

"He's playing rugby league at the moment. He probably should be eligible but for me, he's gone. He's gone to rugby, he's made his decision and I'm happy for him to go now. He's made his decision to go to rugby. Go. Go now."

On Sunday, Suaalii's teammate and Kiwis hooker Brandon Smith quipped the money from Rugby Australia could have been used more wisely, saying that a "1.6 million dollar winger isn't going to help you beat the All Blacks".

But there has been plenty of positive reaction from Suaalii's potential future teammates, with Wallabies halfback Nic White lauding the move.

"I think everyone knows the opportunity in Australian rugby over the next five years," White said. "We've got a new coach, a World Cup in France, the [British and Irish] Lions are coming and a home World Cup in 2027. 

"It's exciting and he’s obviously seen the excitement there with that – and he’s obviously seen some big dollars, too, and that's alright. This is the game and where we're at. 

"He's an unbelievable talent and we’d certainly like to have a guy like Joseph playing here with us than over there playing for the mungoes. 

"It's good for the game."