More details have come to light about the behind-the-scenes conversations that ended with Sydney Roosters sensation Joseph Suaali’i opting to represent Samoa over Mal Meninga’s Kangaroos at the upcoming Rugby League World Cup.
Samoan coach Matt Parish has shed light on the circumstances that led to the major coup, revealing that contrary to popular opinion, he never once mentioned the prospect of playing fullback to the prodigious talent.
Instead, Parish attributes the decision to an honest and in-depth discussion about the set-up around the international team and the increasing interest from other players with shared heritage.
“I have never promised (Suaali’i) or any other player a position in any team, I want to make that clear,” Parish told the Daily Telegraph.
“I rang Joseph, it would have been four or five weeks ago. I spoke to him about our plans for Samoa.
“I said you need to think about it. By no means am I attempting to turn you away from Australia, but we’d love to have you on board.
A few weeks later, Parish got a call from Suaali’i, confirming the massive news.
“He said ‘I want to tell you something – I want to play for Samoa. I want to tell you before I ring Mal (Meninga).
“I spoke to him again on Wednesday morning. I’ve never spoken to Joseph about positions or what position he would be playing.
“It’s his decision, not mine.
“Talking to Joseph, it’s purely (based) on family. I admire these guys, they aren’t motivated by money, they’re motivated by representing their family and their heritage.”
Parish also revealed that he had his sights set on North Queensland Cowboys revelation Jeremiah Nanai, and had also been pursuing Payne Haas – although the Broncos prop has since confirmed he won’t be playing at the end-of-year tournament.
The coach also spoke on the criticism of eligibility rules that has emerged with so many players turning their back on the Kangaroos squad.
“There’s nothing wrong with international eligibility rules,” Parish said.
“Anyone that wants to change them is only thinking about their own self-interest and not the good of the game.
“You go back 10 years, there were three (competitive) teams. Now there are genuinely seven teams if you count PNG. How good is that?
“I don’t understand why people want to change something that is working.”