Suaalii commits to Samoa as Pacific nation strengthens coaching team
by Brad Walter
Sydney Roosters teen sensation Joseph Suaalii is the latest big name star to join Toa Samoa’s World Cup campaign and the Pacific nation has also strengthened its off-field team.
Castleford coach Lee Radford and Cronulla assistant Daniel Holdsworth have joined Matt Parish’s staff and will oversee a star studded squad that includes Suaalii, Jarome Luai, Brian To’o, Junior Paulo and Josh Papaali’i.
The 19-year-old, who was a member of the NSW Origin squad but did not play, was under consideration for the Australian squad after a break-out season with the Roosters.
However, he phoned Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga on Tuesday to advise that he was going to represent his Samoan heritage at the World Cup.
“For family reasons, I have decided to pledge my allegiance to Samoa for the upcoming World Cup,” Suaalii told NewsCorp.
“This has been one of the most difficult decisions of my career. I have been humbled by the respect shown to me and my family by Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga.
“I personally called him on Tuesday to let him know of my decision. I can’t thank him enough for considering me but this is about more than football.
“This is about respecting my family and the sacrifices they have made for me throughout my career.
“My grandparents still live in Samoa and I am looking forward to honouring them and my parents by pulling on the Samoan jersey.
“One day, I hope to play for Australia. I truly believe Samoa can do great things at this World Cup and I can’t wait to be part of it.”
Suaalii will join a Penrith dominated backline which includes Luai, To’o, Stephen Crichton, Izack Tago, Taylan May and Charlie Staines, and is likely to be considered at fullback for the World Cup opener against England on October 15.
Samoa coach Matt Parish will announce his 24-man squad for the World Cup early next week and there may be more big names pledge their allegiances to the Pacific nation.
“I really admire what these guys have done because they are putting aside their own personal wealth for the best interests of their families and obviously Samoa,” Parish said.
“It is very exciting the calibre of players who want to be involved so it is certainly very good.”
Parish is also excited about the coaching team he has assembled for the World Cup, with Radford and Holdsworth to work alongside Geoff Toovey, Frank Pritchard and Richard Agar.
Panthers assistant coach Andrew Webster was a member of the Samoa coaching staff during the mid-season Test defeat of Cook Islands but he has had to step aside after being appointed to the Warriors job next season.
“We are really happy for Andrew Webster, it is a great opportunity for him and one he thoroughly deserves,” Parish said.
“Daniel Holdsworth, who has done a great job with the Sharks, will run our attack and I’m sure he will work well with our young spine.
“We also have Lee Radford, the Castleford coach, who has won two Challenge Cups with Hull FC, so while we are building a strong presence on the field, we certainly have a strong off-field staff as well.”