RA CEO rules out any more Suaalli-like raids on NRL

Darren Walton |

RA say they won’t splash any more cash on NRL stars like the Roosters’ Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii.
RA say they won’t splash any more cash on NRL stars like the Roosters’ Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii.

Rugby Australia boss Phil Waugh says the days of throwing blank cheques at NRL stars are over as the ailing code focuses on developing its own talent and producing Wallabies from within.

While the NRL is considering offering salary-cap exemptions to help clubs raid the rugby ranks, Waugh insists there’ll be no more splashing the cash willy-nilly like RA did this year to entice Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii into a code switch.

RA’s signing of Suaalii on a reported $4.8 million three-year deal from 2025 has been described as “insane”, with one Wallabies great privately telling AAP that amount of money would have been better invested in “keeping 10 young players in rugby”.

Waugh, who only took over as RA chief executive in June after Suaalii was lured from the Sydney Roosters, has categorically ruled out a repeat of the multi-million-dollar raids on NRL players.

Rugby Australia CEO Phil Waugh.
RA chief Phil Waugh says big spending on NRL players will cease under his leadership.

“I keep talking about being fiscally responsible because the game historically has spent more than we can afford,” he said.

“Which is why then I come back to what’s the environment that we’re creating to attract players?

“So it’s not just all about money. You don’t want to be attracting people just because of the money and then you don’t have the environment sorted out.

“So we can’t ignore the fact that we’ve got athletes, not just rugby league targeting them, but you’ll have overseas clubs target them as well from a rugby perspective.

“And we need to ensure that we’re creating an environment that people want to be here and we’re filling stadiums and it’s a real buzz around the game that we’ve experienced previously.

“But we’re certainly not there right now.”

Roosters supremo Nick Politis this week claimed Suaalii had already told his club he planned on returning to the Tricolours in 2028, once his deal with RA was complete.

Seemingly intent on striking back for losing Suaalii to rugby, Politis is also said to be trying to poach NSW Waratahs and Wallabies young guns Max Jorgensen and Mark Nawaqanitawase.

Max Jorgensen.
Waratahs No.15 Max Jorgensen has reportedly attracted interest from the Sydney Roosters.

Waugh is unfazed as the player tug-of-war between the two codes escalates.

“I don’t think we need to respond to speculation,” he said.

“We certainly have a job to do in terms of actually getting our game in order to attract the best possible athletes.

“And I do genuinely think that the international component of our game is compelling when you compare it to rugby league and to the AFL.

“But what we need to do is actually provide security to our players that they trust the administration and the direction we’re taking the game.”

Waugh says it’s his “absolutely priority” to create the right pathways to keep elite teenagers in rugby rather than irresponsibly throwing money at NRL players.

“I don’t care if (young) people are playing league and AFL and other sports,” he said.

“Just as long as they’re experiencing rugby and then we’ve actually got a really clear pathway for those 15, 16, 17-year-olds to become Wallabies or Super Rugby players sooner than what they have historically.

“And I think we’ve seen that with Max coming straight out of school into the Waratahs.

“That’s the journey that we’d like those top athletes to have.”