South Sydney great Sam Burgess has never seen a talent quite like him and, if reports are true, teenage phenomenon Joseph Suaalii will sign a record-breaking deal to make his NRL debut for the Rabbitohs.
“Unbelievable,” Burgess said of the 16-year-old who has represented NSW in rugby league, rugby union, AFL and basketball.
After being pursued by some of the biggest names across the codes, Suaalii is apparently set to put pen to paper to remain at Redfern, where he has been groomed for a future in rugby league since he was 11, on a $1.7 million mega-deal.
Fox Sports claimed the three-year deal, which cannot be registered until August 1, would be the highest ever paid to a teenager to play in the NRL.
“Look, I hate rapping young kids. It puts a lot of pressure on them and we rap them on potential and there’s plenty of kids the same age – but I’ve seen him play,” Burgess told NRL 360 after spending time with the youngster during the off-season.
“I’ve seen him first-hand, training with the first team, and forget his athletic ability – what I saw inside Joseph Suaalii that day, I saw (how) we took him to the edge of the cliff and he hung on for dear life and he had the courage of a 25 to 28-year-old man.
“And he was riding contact – this was six months ago – like any other first-grader. I’ve never ever seen a kid do that and never mind an outside back.
“So I hate rapping a young kid because it’s unwarranted, but I’ve seen him first-hand, he’s pretty special.”
Standing almost two metres tall and hitting the scales at 96 kilograms, Suaalii has already been a target for Wallabies coach Dave Rennie, who tried to lure the youngster to rugby.
But the fullback, described as a physical cross between Greg Inglis and Sonny Bill Williams, is said to have his heart set on league.
Burgess believes Suaalii will forge his own path as one of the brightest prospects he has seen in the game – and he has seen a few.
“He’s better,” Burgess said when Manly legend Geoff Toovey compared Suaalii to current Kangaroo Tom Trbojevic.
“I’ve seen a young Greg (Inglis), I’ve seen a young Israel (Folau), I’ve played against him (Trbojevic).
“I’m saying he’s going to be Joseph Suaalii. He’s going to be his own thing.
“The comparisons are always there but Joseph will be his own thing.”