Teen star Suaalii is the subject of an ongoing and somewhat bitter tug-of-war between South Sydney and Rugby Australia.
Rugby is attempting to pinch the young gun from rugby league and he’s been identified as a future star of either code, whichever he chooses.
He’s being offered big money but now V’landys is considering bending the NRL rules to allow Suaalii to play first grade before he turns 18.
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Gould revealed he messaged V’landys immediately after hearing the news, pleading for exemption to be thrown out.
“Changing the rule to suit this young boy from South Sydney because of a perceived tug-of-war between codes… I don’t know the reason behind this request, or why this statement was made,” Gould told his podcast Six Tackles With Gus.
“But I worry about the precedent that it sets, and what it may open itself up to.
“I actually sent a message off to Peter V’landys as soon as I heard his announcement, to say there was a reason why we set 18. I personally think it should be 21.
“I’m not in favour. The difference between 17 and 18 is only 12 months. I’ve seen the boy play and he’s obviously physically advantaged.
“But another 12 months is not going to stop him if he’s going to be an NRL player.”
Players have made their NRL debuts as young as 16 in years gone by but the ARLC now has a ruled in place forbidding anyone to play in the top grade before they turn 18.
Gould pointed out legends like Greg Alexander and Brad Fittler debuted much younger than 18 and went on to have stellar careers in rugby league.
But even Fittler was punted from first grade by Gould as Penrith coach, not so much for his football but to help develop his attitude and maturity.
Gould has advocated for raising the minimum age to 21 which means current stars like David Fifita and Dylan Brown would right now not be allowed to play first grade yet.
“There are a number of reasons why we have tried to raise the age for playing in the NRL,” Gould said.
“I have written regularly over the decades that I think the age should be 21. I don’t think we should play players in the NRL until they are 21.
“It gives them a great opportunity to develop physically and mentally in an elite junior competition, but also get their education sorted and give themselves the foundations for a future without rugby league if that’s the way their life goes, or a future beyond rugby league if they do have a rugby league career.
“Athletically some kids are able to play and handle a game or two in first grade at 17 years of age.”
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National Rugby League, South Sydney Rabbitohs, Wayne Bennett, Phil Gould, Penrith Panthers, St. George Illawarra Dragons, Latrell Mitchell
World news – AU – Gould’s plea as NRL considers breaking the rules for 16yo Souths freak