Souths won't budge on Suaalii NRL clause

Wayne Bennett says a decision not to allow teenage sensation Joseph Suaalii a get-out clause in an extended South Sydney NRL contract is not negotiable.

Coach WAYNE BENNETT watches on during the Brisbane Broncos NRL training session in Brisbane, Australia.
Coach WAYNE BENNETT watches on during the Brisbane Broncos NRL training session in Brisbane, Australia. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

Wayne Bennett says the ball is firmly in teenage sensation Joseph Suaalii's court after South Sydney knocked back a request for a get-out clause in a five-year NRL deal.

Suaalii, who earlier this year attracted a cross-code bidding war with rugby union, is still contracted to the Rabbitohs until the end of next year.

The Rabbitohs have offered the 17-year-old a lucrative three-season contract, which would have likely seen the talented fullback make his NRL debut at the club.

However Bennett confirmed a report on Wednesday that Souths' offer had been countered by a five-year deal from the teenager, which would have allowed him to walk away after 2022 at his discretion.

The Rabbitohs are not interested in entertaining that option, but remained hopeful Souths could keep the young prodigy.

"I don't think either parties have closed the door, but certainly at this point in time he is not coming here," Bennett said.

"We've been keen on him for 12 to 18 months and it just hasn't worked out.

"There are a lot of things going on for him so they will come back with conditions, it may not be final yet but it certainly is from our point of view at the moment."

Suaalii would likely be a hit in Rugby Sevens, potentially making the Olympics an enticing option.

Rugby Australia earlier this year considered a big-money deal, before Peter V'landys declared the NRL would consider relaxing age rules to allow him to play first grade next season before turning 18.

But Bennett has long tried to downplay the situation, and insisted this week Suaalii's talent was nothing new.

"I was at the Broncos for a number of years and we had a lot of top kids there," he said.

"And we got deals done there without being a headline every day, and they were as talented as Joseph is."

It comes as Bennett's Rabbitohs continue to time their run into the finals nicely, sitting sixth with two rounds to play.

They have emerged as the NRL's best attacking teams in the past six weeks ahead of Thursday night's clash with Canterbury.

"We're doing a lot of things right, we've won six out of seven games so that gives you confidence," Bennett said.

"It's the right time of the year to be doing that.

"I just don't want to see us lose our confidence."


* Souths have not lost to a bottom-eight side since the NRL's restart.

* Souths have scored the most points and tries since round 12.

* Canterbury must win one of their last two to have any chance of avoiding their first wooden spoon in 12 years.