PENRITH, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 18: Joseph Suaalii of the Roosters looks dejected after the Roosters were defeated by the Pamthers during the round 15 NRL match between the Penrith Panthers and the Sydney Roosters at Panthers Stadium, on June 18, 2021, in Penrith, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Sydney Roosters young gun Joseph Suaalii has put on plenty of size over the off-season in an effort to handle the rigours of a full NRL season.

The 18-year-old made five appearances for the Roosters during 2021 following his mid-year debut, but missed the back half of the season as he became just one of plenty of Roosters players to go down with injury.

Suaalii's injury was bad enough that he would miss the Queensland bubble when the competition relocated north.

With Paul Momirovski's arrival at Bondi and Matt Ikuvalu's departure, it likely means the backline will consist of James Tedesco at fullback, Daniel Tupou on one wing, Paul Momirovski and Joseph Manu in the centres, and one of Suaalii and Billy Smith on the other wing.

Smith has fought injury himself, but Suaalii has looked to gain an edge in the race for the position in Trebt Robinson's side, with New South Wales and Roosters' captain James Tedesco telling that Suaalii has put on size over the off-season and "is looking huge," after training alongside Suaalii at an emerging Blues camp.

NRL Rd 9 - Cowboys v Roosters
TOWNSVILLE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 09: James Tedesco of the Roosters runs the ball during the round nine NRL match between the North Queensland Cowboys and the Sydney Roosters at QCB Stadium on July 09, 2020 in Townsville, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

“We all know Suaalii’s a freak but he had that injury which was a big surgery for him and he’s on his recovery now,” Tedesco said.

“He’s looking huge as well, he’s only 18 years old and he’s looking about 105-110 kilos.

“He’s only going to get better, so we’ve just got to keep him healthy.”

While head coach Trent Robinson originally said Suaalii wouldn't be used before he was ready for first-grade, the coach was backed into a corner over the use of both Suaalii and Sam Walker as an injury crisis bit the club.

Despite that, the tri-colours still managed to finish the regular season in fifth spot before being knocked out on semi-final weekend.