NRL 2022: Roosters, Joseph Suaalii contract, James Tedesco, Andrew Johns

Andrew Johns has no doubt Joseph Suaalii can be a specialist NRL fullback “come round one next year”.

The only problem is standing in the teen prodigy’s way is James Tedesco — and Johns says there’s “no chance in the world” the Roosters captain will be dislodged.

The rugby league world got a glimpse of Suaalii at fullback when the 19-year-old shifted from the right wing to replace Tedesco during the Roosters’ elimination final loss to the Rabbitohs on Sunday.

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Tedesco was wiped from the game with concussion in the 18th minute, opening the door for Suaalii to play at fullback following an incredible endorsement by mentor Steve Nateski.

“I just sat back and said to Billy (Slater) off camera … ‘Watch him, tell me what you see’,” Johns said on Wide World of Sports’ Immortal Behaviour.

“After about five minutes Billy went, ‘Superstar’.

“So, look out.

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“Whether they can keep hold of him … because there’s all that talk that they’ve got to let Tedesco go.”

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Nateski’s claim that the Roosters would have to offload Tedesco to retain Suaalii was slammed by Johns on last week’s edition of Wide World of Sports’ Freddy and The Eighth, with the legendary halfback branding his comments “rude” and “extraordinary”.

Johns also pointed out that in the early 2000s Anthony Minichiello bided his time at the Roosters behind Luke Phillips, the club’s first-choice fullback at the time.

Suaalii is contracted to the Tri-colours until the end of this year and has player options for 2023 and 2024.

“It’s freakish,” Johns said of the young gun.

“It’s frightening the potential he has to play any position in the backline other than halfback. You could play him anywhere: five-eighth, we know what he can do on (a) wing, centre, but fullback. Ultimately that’s his position — fullback.

“I hope he stays at the Chooks for the rest of his life.”

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