Burning Suaalii question that will dominate NRL

    Paul Crawley goes through everything you need to know about the Chooks in our exclusive club-by-club deep dive series ahead of the 2023 season.2022 Rich 100 reps: 8James Tedesco (5, $1.1m,) Matt Lodge (13, $950k), Luke Keary (21, $850k), Joey Manu (43, $720k), Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (54, $700k), Angus Crichton (57, $680k), Sio Siua Taukeiaho (67, $625k), Victor Radley (92, $510k)FREE AGENCY WRAP They already had a star-studded squad, but the arrival of Brandon Smith, Jake Turpin and Jaxson Paulo should make the Roosters considerably stronger in key areas.In particular, Smith could be buy of the year. There’s no hiding from the fact this team has struggled to fill Jake Friend’s void, and while Sam Verrills was starting to find his form after some injury setbacks, Smith’s X-factor will keep opposition defences on alert even more.It was a big call to go out and sign Smith when they already had the respected Verrills contracted for a couple more years. But these are the type of tough decisions the Roosters are famous for, like when they brought in Cooper Cronk over the top of Mitchell Pearce. It might not always be popular at first, but it’s done with building further success being the key motivator. If the larrikin Kiwi keeps his focus on footy and doesn’t get sidetracked by Sydney’s bright lights, then he should be a huge asset. Former Bronco Turpin could also prove a shrewd pick-up to share the dummy half duties, while former Rabbitoh Paulo will also be a welcome addition to cover a spot at either centre or wing. Paulo has had his struggles, but no one argues he’s a player with exceptional talent. The Roosters also picked up Canterbury winger and former Queensland Origin player Corey Allan who will give them more depth in the back three. Rating: BCOACH STATUSNick Politis has said previously Trent Robinson will be coaching the Roosters for as long as he wants the job. The fact Robinson has won three premierships in his 10 seasons in charge, and has a contract in place for six more seasons, makes him as safe as money in the bank.Though that still doesn’t excuse the fact the past two seasons have been extremely underwhelming by the Roosters’ lofty standards.They’ve gone from winning back-to-back premierships in 2018-19 to finishing outside the top four the past two seasons. There is no denying they have had to overcome some serious injury issues in this period, and of course the forced retirements of co-captains Jake Friend and Boyd Cordner. But they still went into 2022 with many rating them premiership favourites, and they got rolled in week one of the finals by their arch rivals the Rabbitohs. Another finish outside the top four would be hard for all involved to swallow.Rating: AROOSTERS 2023 SQUAD AND BEST 17LIKELY DEBUTANT(S)If you haven’t heard of a young player named Joshua Wong don’t worry, you will very soon. This 19-year-old back-rower is an absolute gun, likened to a teenage Sonny Bill Williams, and is expected to make his presence felt in 2023.One thing the Roosters do have good depth in is edge forwards with Angus Crichton, Nat and Egan Butcher and Sitili Tupouniua all fighting for spots.But good judges reckon Wong should still play a significant chunk of 2023 in the top grade. It’s just a case of when he gets his start.The other really exciting youngster in the Roosters’ top 30 is boom centre Robert Toia. From Nudgee College, Toia was rated arguably the best of the schoolboy outside backs coming through in Queensland before he suffered a knee injury that will delay his start to 2023.Outside back Vuate Karawalevu is another one to watch out for. The young Fijian made an impression at the recent World Cup and is on the development list.WHO TAKES THE NEXT STEP?Sam Walker is the player the Roosters really need to go to the next level in 2023 if they are going to be a genuine threat to win the comp. You look at teams like grand finalists Penrith and Parramatta and it is the No.7s Nathan Cleary and Mitchell Moses who own the show every week.Regardless of whether it is Luke Keary or Joey Manu who ends up wearing the No 6 jumper at the Roosters, the club has made it clear Walker will be wearing the No.7 jumper for as long as he wants it. Even though he is still only 20, Walker now has 47 NRL games behind him which makes him a rookie no more. The responsibility of playing halfback at any club comes with immense expectation. But at a club like the Roosters it is even more so, especially when you arrive with the raps Walker did.THREE BURNING ISSUES1) What to do with Manu?No one is arguing Luke Keary and Same Walker aren’t a potentially a premiership-winning halves combination.But the debate that won’t go away is would the Roosters be an even better side if recently crowned Golden Boot winner Joseph Manu was wearing the No.6 jumper?While Manu is also rated the world’s best centre, his phenomenal World Cup performances for the Kiwis were playing at both fullback and five-eighth. And while he’s no chance of owning the No.1 jumper at the Roosters while James Tedesco is playing like he is, the No.6 appears his best option to get closer to the action. The issue is Keary is no mug either, a three-time premiership winner as well as a Clive Churchill medallist for best on ground in the 2018 decider.The talk is a lot will depend on how Keary’s health holds up, with the belief that another head knock could force him into early retirement. Many still think the Roosters are costing themselves by not making the call now. Time could be the judge of that.2) Will Suaalii be satisfied with a move into the centres?It’s no secret young Joseph Suaalii’s ultimate aim is also to play fullback, and getting a taste of the No.1 jumper for Samoa at the World Cup will only drive that desire.But as is the case with Joey Manu, the problem for Suaalii is that Tedesco also showed at the tournament beyond any doubt why he is still rightfully ranked the world’s best fullback, and should hold that mantle for some years to come.So the question the Roosters need to find the answer to is how do they keep the teenage sensation happy for long enough to see out Teddy’s time at the club, and keep the wolves away from a young man rated a once-in-a-generation player?After an outstanding rookie season on the wing, it’s expected Suaalii will probably move into the centres in 2023, and that hopefully will keep him content for now. But given he comes off contract in 2024, his management will no doubt want to know what the Roosters’ long-term plans are with Suaalii free to start negotiating with rival clubs come November 1, while rugby union is the other serious threat. For that reason this will become one of the most talked about NRL player trade stories throughout 2023.3) How do Roosters juggle the abundance of forward depth?You can only start 13 players every week, and name four more on the bench. The issue for the Roosters is they have probably at least 21 players who would be walk-up starters at most clubs, but some of them could be looking ahead to at a pretty lean season because of the overflow of talent.So will it be Connor Watson or Jake Turpin who gets a spot in the top 17 as Brandon Smith’s back up? In the back row the Roosters have Angus Crichton and Nat Butcher as the regular starters in 2022, while Egan Butcher looks ready to stamp his mark, Sitili Tupouniua will be returning from injury, while the rookie Wong is said to be something very special.But can you fit all four in the top 17 when you also have a four-man middle rotation of Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Matt Lodge, Lindsay Collins and Terrell May to accommodate? And what about Drew Hutchison, who seems to be one of Robbo’s favourites?CRYSTAL BALLThere was no shortage of support for the Roosters last year but they fell short of what was expected of them. But with the addition of Brandon Smith there can be no excuses in 2023. They need to finish top four at a bare minimum to get a pass mark. Aside from Penrith they have the strongest overall roster on paper. And while the coach looks to be under no threat, you can’t say the same for a few of the individual players.Where will the Roosters finish in 2023?Finish the last five years: 2022: 6th (eliminated in first week of finals)2021: 5th: (eliminated in third week of finals)2020: 4th (Eliminated in week two of finals)2019: 2nd (Premiers)2018: 1st (Premiers)2023 oddsPremiership: $4Minor premiership: $3.50To make grand final: $2.25Top four: $1.60Top eight: $1.15Most losses: $20NRL deep dives RADLEY VERDICT HANDED DOWN AFTER PUB INCIDENTBy Fatima KdouhEngland and Sydney Roosters lock Victor Radley has been ‘exonerated’ of any wrong doing after an off-field altercation with Ireland international James Bentley during the Rugby League World Cup last month. The ruling by the Rugby Football League, England’s governing body, is likely to see the Sydney Roosters star given the green light to take the field in Round 1 against new franchise, the Dolphins on March 5. While the RFL has cleared Radley of ‘any blame for the incident’, the NRL’s integrity unit will review the findings before rubber stamping the ruling. Though The Daily Telegraph understands the NRL is unlikely to deviate from the RFL’s decision. It’s expected Radley will line-up against the Dolphins, in a match that will pay homage to Immortal Arthur Beetson — who was a legend of both clubs. Radley was embroiled in an heated encounter with Bentley at a Manchester pub following England’s semi-final loss to Samoa in November.Sources close to the incident have suggested that Bentley had allegedly acted aggressively towards England coach Shaun Wane, and Radley had come to the coach’s defence. After interviewing both Radley and Bentley, as well as other eye witnesses, the RFL determined Radley had reacted in self defence during the altercation. “The compliance investigation, requested by RLWC, involved interviews with a number of eyewitnesses as well as those directly involved,” a RFL statement said. “The investigator found a non-England player to have behaved inappropriately and an England player to have acted in self-defence. “No members of the England squad were at fault.“The RFL Board has determined that no further action should be taken — and these findings have been shared with all relevant Rugby League bodies.”

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