Sydney Roosters’ teenage sensation Joseph Suaalii is the latest big star to join Toa Samoa’s World Cup campaign and the Pacific nation has also bolstered its team off the field.
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 didn’t play, qualified for the Australian squad after a breakout season with the Roosters.
Super Suaalii had a night out
On Tuesday, however, he called Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga to tell him that he would represent his Samoan descent 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 am humbled by the respect Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga has shown to me and my family.
“I personally called him on Tuesday to inform him of my decision. I can’t thank him enough for thinking of 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 look forward to honoring them and my parents by donning the Samoan sweater.
“One day I hope to play for Australia. I really believe that Samoa can do great things in this World Cup and I can’t wait to be a part of it.”
Suaalii will join a Penrith-dominated backline, including Luai, To’o, Stephen Crichton, Izack Tago, Taylan May and Charlie Staines, and is likely to be considered full-back for the World Cup opener against England on October 15.
Samoa coach Matt Parish will announce his 24-man roster for the World Cup early next week and there could be more big names pledging their loyalty to the Pacific nation.
“I really admire what these guys have done as they put their own personal wealth aside for the sake of their families and of course Samoa,” Parish said.
“It’s very exciting the caliber of players who want to be there, so it’s definitely very good.”
Parish is also excited about the coaching team he has assembled for the World Cup, with Radford and Holdsworth teaming up with Geoff Toovey, Frank Pritchard and Richard Agar.
Match Highlights: Samoa v Cook Islands
Panthers assistant coach Andrew Webster was a member of Samoa’s coaching staff during the midseason Test loss to the Cook Islands, but he had to step aside after being named to the Warriors job next season.
“We’re very happy for Andrew Webster, it’s a great opportunity for him and one he absolutely deserves,” Parish said.
“Daniel Holdsworth, who has done a great job with the Sharks, will carry out our attack and I’m sure he will work well with our young backbone.
“We also have Lee Radford, Castleford’s coach, who has won two Challenge Cups with Hull FC, so as we build a strong presence on the pitch, we certainly have a strong staff off the pitch as well.”