Melbourne Storm great Billy Slater believes NRL would set “really dangerous” precedent if they Green light for Roosters candidacy to allow teenage sensation Joseph Suaalii to play this season before he turns 18e birthday.
Under current NRL rules, Suaalii is currently unable to make his freshman debut for the Roosters until he’s 18, which won’t be until August 1.
However, the Roosters are eager to get their prodigy in the Tricolors this season, pressuring the NRL for the second time on the possibility of providing Suaalii with an exemption from the league’s minimum age rule.
Despite reports suggesting roosters will benefit from their exemption, it is understood that the adolescent still has to overcome a number of obstacles.
One of the youngster’s idols, however, is not so won over by the idea.
Slater believes the league could move through murky territory and weighed the potential risks of allowing the youngster to get onto the pitch prematurely.
“This is a delicate question, I don’t know what the criteria are for accepting this exemption,” Slater told WWOS Radio on 2GB.
“The NRL introduced the rule that you cannot play until you are 18e birthday for a reason
“I don’t know what they’re looking at, whether it’s physical attributes or mental or emotional forces, but I don’t know how you can accept one person and then refuse the next person.
“It’s really tough. If we let Joseph play, then he goes out there and gets injured because he’s not ready in terms of his (development) – that’s a really dangerous precedent to set. I don’t see the NRL allowing him to play before he turns 18e birthday.”
Suaalii is still finishing his studies at King’s School while he was at Roosters.
Nine Rugby League reporter Danny Weidler has revealed that NRL CEO Andrew Abdo will first need to meet with Suaalii’s high school principal to discuss his development before any decisions are made on his eligibility.
It is believed that the NRL is also concerned about how Suaalii will be treated “in an environment where alcohol and gambling exist”.
With a string of strangers hanging over Sualii, Slater thought there was no harm in waiting a few more months.
“We’ve come a long way since we allowed the players to play at 17. We’ve come a long way in the game,” he said.
“Look at the HIA and the protocols around it and how the thought processes around the players have changed.
“I look at this situation and I just see – 17. What is the damage just until August and then you are eligible to play?”
Suaalii got her first glimpse of the spotlight this weekend, scoring two tries for the North Sydney Bears in a Canterbury Cup try against the Canberra Raiders.