Joseph Suaalii: NRL would bend age rules to accommodate teenager

The NRL would consider bending its own rules to allow Joseph Suaalii to play first grade at only 17 as reports suggest the talented teenager will indeed sign with South Sydney on an upgraded offer.

Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter V'Landys confirmed he would look at changing the current rule that stipulates a player must be at least 18 years of age to accommodate Suaalii, who is at the centre of a tug-o-war battle between the Rabbitohs and Rugby Australia [RA].

News that Suaalii was seriously considering a deal with RA has reportedly seen Souths increase its original offer on a three-year extension, while V'landys' comments that the minimum age requirement to play in the NRL was also open to change may help swing things the Rabbitohs' way.

"Absolutely. We will look at anything that is to the benefit of the game," V'landys said when asked if NRL age restrictions could be re-evaluated.

"That is what the Commission is there for; to look at the benefit of the game, the promotion of the game and the outcomes of the game.

"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."

Suaalii would be eligible to play Super Rugby AU immediately if he did choose to sign with RA with the governing body already allowing for special cases that involved talented teenagers.

And NSW Waratahs coach Rob Penney, for whom Suaalii would play if he opted for rugby, last week indicated he would have no hesitation in selecting the teenager so long as everything was signed off from a player welfare and health perspective.

"It wouldn't be a decision just made in isolation and very important to get that right, but age is no barrier," Penney said.

For now, though, all anyone can do is wait until the teenager officially puts pen to paper on a contract with either sport.

The Rabbitohs had long been expected to announce Suaalii's extension on August 1, the date of his 17th birthday, before Rugby Australia's last-ditch contract approach had given him something else to ponder.

But having upgraded their contract offer, and brought in club owner and Hollywood star Russell Crowe, to help push their case, the Rabbitohs again appear poised to officially land Suaalii on an NRL contract as early as Saturday.