Teenage NRL wunderkind Joseph Suaalii has spectacularly answered a huge question, sparking calls for higher honors already.
Sydney Roosters’ wunderkind Joseph Suaalii has put in one of the hits of the year to rub salt in Melbourne Storm’s wounds in the first half of their clash at the SCG on Saturday evening.
But the loss of Luke Keary to a friendly-fire concussion and Sam Walker for some time has seen the Storm bounce back to claim a 26-18 victory.
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While it was a strong comeback for the Storm, it was also the arrival of Suaalii who ran 139, had five tackle breaks and arguably his best game in first grade.
The 18-year-old star in his second season in first grade is knocking on the door of State of Origin already after he was named in the Blues’ 22-man squad for the series opener.
While there is no doubt over Suaalii’s attacking abilities and speed, particularly at Magic Round when he pulled off an AFL style mark which stunned the league.
But if there were any questions over whether he could assert himself in defence, they were answered on Saturday against the Storm when he pulled off a try saver followed by a monster hit on Trent Loiero in a thrilling passage of play.
It was the 17th minute when the Storm’s Marion Seve made a line break and passed to Jahrome Hughes.
Suaalii ran from the other side of the field and put the hit on to ultimately save the try.
The commentators pointed out that Hughes stepped back on the inside to try and wrong-foot Suaalii.
“If he runs straight he scores, what did I just watch?” Andrew Voss said, while Greg Alexander called it “a horribly bombed try”.
But it was a hell of a tackle from Suaalii who made up plenty of meters to cut down Hughes.
The call was held up and the Storm had one more play and spread the ball wide, only for Suaalii to come up with a crushing tackle on Loiero.
“He’s just reeled off a couple of the best tackles you’ve ever seen,” Alexander said. “One’s saved a try and one’s just buried Trent Loiero.”
“Wow, he’s 18-year-old you know,” Voss added. “Don’t mess with him. If you don’t want to do your homework — ‘no dramas Joseph’.”
The Roosters even went up the other end and scored, making it essentially a 12-point turnaround for Sydney.
He also scored the first try of the match in the fifth minute and was only just denied a second by some desperate goal line defence.
At halftime, Fox League’s Yvonne Sampson said: “Let’s hope the Origin selectors saw that first 40 minutes.”
Benji Marshall said: “Young players who come into the game with big wraps on them are all about attack but this tackle to save this try on Jahrome Hughes from the other side of the field as a kid is inspirational and inspires your side. Saving a try these days is as good as scoring them.”
And social media definitely appreciated what it had seen.
“Suaalii should be straight into the Origin side – he’s a beast,” wrote The Daily Telegraph’s Buzz Rothfield.
SMH’s Chrstian Nicolussi added: “BOOM BOOM: Joey Suaalii just came up with two ripping tackles in a row. What a player.”
Suaalii caused a storm when coming into the league when the Roosters won a bidding war with the Rabbitohs and rugby union for the young gun’s services.
He was also given special dispensation to play before his 18th birthday.
At halftime, the Roosters led 12-10 but suffered a big blow when five-eighth Luke Keary was ruled out of the remainder of the match after failing a concussion test after he struck his teammate’s knee when he was knocked over trying to make a tackle .