NRL Real or Not Samoan Suaali'i rules himself out of Wallabies future

This week we take a look at the future for Joseph Suaalii after he declared his rugby league allegiance to Samoa, whether Saturday night's preliminary final decides this year's premiers and whether Origin eligibility needs a complete overhaul.

Read on as we tackle some of the big talking points in the latest edition of NRL Real or Not.

Samoan Suaali'i rules himself out of Wallabies future

NOT REAL: What? Not real? Why not? This young man has every right to feel a greater affinity to his ancestral home. If Joseph Suaali'i wants to play for Samoa at the Rugby League World Cup, he should be encouraged, as it is a decision he has made with his heart, it strengthens the tournament and it shows that sometimes in sport, money isn't everything.

"I can't thank him enough for considering me, but this is about more than football," Suaali'i told News Corp of his decision to tell Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga that he would be playing for Samoa.

"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."

So, it makes sense that if he wants to one day make the switch to rugby union, his heart would be in the same place, right? He could sign for a Super Rugby franchise, before pulling on the Samoan jersey at Test level.

For Samoan rugby, unfortunately this is extremely unlikely, as there simply would not be enough money for Suaali'i in a Super Rugby contract, without a Rugby Australia top-up. The Waratahs, for example, couldn't offer him anywhere near enough money if he wasn't signed to pull on a Wallabies jersey as soon as he was ready. In rugby league, the clubs can pay him top dollar, regardless of where he plays his representative football.

So the young man must be feeling conflicted as he considers his future? Well, maybe not, as he also added that he wasn't ruling himself out of playing for the Kangaroos at some point either.

"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," he added.

Suaali'i sees himself as a fullback, in whichever code he ends up playing. Fullbacks are more involved than wingers in both games and are rightly paid more money for their contributions. With Roosters skipper James Tedesco currently ahead of him in the fullback ranks for Australia, his best chance would be to grab a wing spot, with even that not guaranteed. By going to Samoa, he will play fullback in what is shaping as a very strong team, and he'll have every opportunity on the World Cup stage to show why he should be earning the big bucks in that position in either code.

The preliminary final between Panthers and Rabbitohs decides the title

REAL: It's not a particularly insightful thing to point out that the Panthers and Rabbitohs are the two form sides heading into the NRL's penultimate weekend of football for 2022. The Panthers have been the best team in the competition for last past two years and go into this clash well rested and well prepared for a rematch of last season's decider. The Bunnies have looked better each week, with Cody Walker and Latrell Mitchell masterly behind the ruck speed of Damien Cook and Cameron Murray. It promises to be a sensational game, which will all but decide the premiership.

Waiting on the other side of the bracket will be either the Eels or Cowboys, who battle it out in Townsville on Friday night. Could that just be a game to determine this year's runner-up? Fans of both clubs will be confident of springing an upset in the Grand Final, but rest assured it will be an upset. Either the Panthers prove what everyone is thinking, and take their place in the big dance after outplaying the Rabbitohs, or Souths step up to claim giant killer status. Come the first Sunday in October, the majority of money will be riding on the winner of Saturday night's game, barring major injuries to several key players.

So who will it be? It would take a very brave person or a fanatical Rabbitohs supporter to suggest that it shouldn't be the Panthers. They just have so much class across the park, and seem to play on another level to most teams. But the Bunnies are no mugs, they have scrapped their way into this position and they will have a plan to upset the reigning premiers. Souths' defence so far in the finals has been extremely tight. They need to frustrate the Panthers who are used to having their own way with the ball. They need to get up and in the face of Nathan Cleary, they can't sit back and watch him perform as the Eels did two weeks ago. They need their own attack to be on song, with blinders from Walker and Mitchell. They can do it, but they need everything to go right on the night.

Regardless of who wins on Saturday night, I can't see either team being troubled by the Eels or the Cowboys in the big one.

Origin should be for Australian representative players only

REAL: The current situation with players picking and choosing between Australia and second tier nations has raised the question once again over who should be allowed to play State of Origin football. Should they open State of Origin up for everyone, New Zealand and England players included, or make it a legitimate series for identifying and hardening Kangaroos talent?

For a start, the tier system needs a review, as Samoa are proving to be a top tier team, if not financially, then at least talent wise, particularly with all the players who have defected from the Kangaroos. International rugby league needs to be as strong as it possibly can be, but does that mean Australia should bring itself back to the pack by allowing players eligible for other nations to hone their big game skills in State of Origin?

Should a player like Josh Addo-Carr give up his New South Wales wing spot to players like Brian To'o, Daniel Tupou and Joseph Suaalii only to be selected for Australia when those three prefer to represent their ancestral nations? How can you be the best Australian winger, but not make your state team?

We should all sit back and enjoy the upcoming World Cup, with four teams legitimately capable of winning the title. But, once the fireworks have faded and the celebrations wrap up, a serious review needs to be undertaken on the Origin eligibility rules.