17-year-old Sydney Roosters wunderkind Joseph Suaalii has opened his scoring account in his second first grade game pouncing on his first try in the NRL.
It wasn’t the flashiest try by any means but the youngster was in the right place at the right time to nab his first four-pointer in first grade.
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After debuting last week in the 24-16 loss to the Brisbane Broncos, it was looking dire for the Tricolours as the Raiders opened up a 10-0 lead.
But football is a funny game with a single moment changing the course of a game.
And with 10 minutes left in the first half, the moment happened.
On the fifth tackle, the Roosters’ Lachlan Lam put up a bomb that was butchered by Raiders fullback Caleb Aekins.
The ball bounced perfect for Suaalii, as the 17-year-old claimed his first try in the NRL.
He became the first 17-year-old to score an NRL try since Dale Copley in 2009.
“Right spot at the right time, Joseph Suaalii off the Lachlan Lam bomb,” Greg Alexander said. “Straight over the top of his shoulder and Suaalii gets the perfect bounce to score his first try. There will be many more but this is his first. And does it spectacularly.”
Still a high school student, Suaalii has dominated the headlines throughout the year as he left both the South Sydney Rabbitohs and Rugby Australia behind to sign with the Roosters.
Fox Sports commentator Warren Smith added: “If you’re going to play for Trent Robinson (Roosters coach) you have to be able to defend your position. He’s shown he can do that so far, we know what he can do given the highlights of what we’ve seen from him in the NSW Cup for the North Sydney Bears.”
Suaalii’s path to the top grade had been fascinating NRL theatre throughout the off-season with the 17-year-old being granted clearance to play despite being under 18, which is now required under NRL rules.
Earlier in the season, Robinson said that while they had clearance, Suaalii would still have to wait.
“I’ve been quite transparent with the NRL about my plan,” Robinson said.
“We’re not going to play him before he’s ready, so it’s about playing him in reserve grade and I thought he excelled in the trial but needed to physically nail the game.
“He did better again on the weekend and he needs to keep turning up against different reserve grade teams and keep the physicality continuing in his game.”
The schoolboy rugby sensation — who last year officially chose league over a rich offer from Rugby Australia — impressed everyone while training with the Rabbitohs’ first grade squad last pre-season and it has long been a question of when, not if, he would graduate to the NRL.
He was the most sought-after talent in Australian sport last year before the Roosters wrestled him away from the Rabbitohs, despite having signed a contract with the Redfern club.
And now he has his first NRL points.
After fullback James Tedesco went off the field with a hip pointer injury after the Raiders’ first try, it looked like a fresh headache for the NSW Origin camp.
But the star returned to the field to push the Roosters to a 16-10 lead at halftime.