NRL warned against changing minimum-age rule to keep teen sensation Joseph Suaalii in rugby league

The NRL has been warned against making an exemption to its age eligibility rules in order to keep teenage sensation Joseph Suaalii in rugby league.

Suaalii is a South Sydney junior but Rugby Australia is chasing the signature of the 16-year-old, who represented the Australian Schools and U18 rugby union team last year.

A media report claimed Suaalii was offered $3 million over three years to play rugby union. RA described the speculation about the size of the deal as “fanciful”, although it confirmed it was interested in signing the King’s School student.

NRL rules state a player cannot make his first-grade debut before he turns 18, but Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) chairman Peter V’landys said an exemption might be made for Suaalii.

He will be permitted to sign a contract with the Rabbitohs once he turns 17 this weekend and could be eligible to play first grade before his 18th birthday if the ARLC does make a change to the NRL age requirement.

But prominent NRL commentator Phil Gould said the league should not change its age requirement to pave the way for Suaalii to make his first-grade debut before he turns 18.

“I wouldn’t like them to make an exception here,” Gould told Channel Nine.

“I don’t think it’s a good rule to change. I really don’t.

“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.

Phil Gould looks to his left.

Phil Gould looks to his left.

Phil Gould does not want the NRL to make changes to its rule on age restriction.(AAP: Joel Carrett)

Gould said he did not like “the look” or “the feel” of the calls for the NRL to accommodate Suaalii.

“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,” he said.

Asked on Monday if he would have the ARLC consider allowing Suaalii make his NRL debut for the Rabbitohs next season if that was enough to keep the teenager in the code, V’landys said “absolutely”.

“We will look at anything that’s to the benefit of the game,” he said.

“That’s what the commission’s there for, is to look at the benefit of the game, the promotion of the game and what’s the best outcomes for the game.

“So we should look at every case on its merits. We should not have blanket rules that stop you from doing things that are for the benefit of the game.”

While denying they had tabled a $3 million offer to Suaalii, RA said late last week it was confident of securing his signature.