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'It's a lot of pressure': Souths support Suaalii as he weighs up future

Rabbitohs players won't hold a grudge against "freak talent" Joseph Suaalii if he leaves to play rugby union.

The teenage outside back, tied to South Sydney until the end of 2021, agreed to a rich three-year extension last month.

The contract can not be registered until August 1, when Suaalii turns 17, and there have since been reports that he was poised to sign with Rugby Australia on a lucrative three-year deal.

Rugby Australia responded with a statement that said a deal hadn't been reached and the reported multimillion-dollar contract value was "fanciful".

Suaalii, who has starred for South Sydney at junior representative level as well as playing First XV rugby for The King's School, impressed when he trained with the Rabbitohs during the pre-season.

"He came in a fair bit and you could see then he was a freak talent," South Sydney back Alex Johnston said on Wednesday.

"Whatever's happening is up to him. I hope he makes the right decision by him and at the end of the day he's a freak. Whatever he chooses will be the right thing."

Rabbitohs teammates spruik 'old head' Jack Johns

Johnston quipped that "rugby league's a better sport" but added "if he goes to union then ... all the best to him."

Souths centre Campbell Graham, who will return from a facial fracture against Canberra on Saturday, pointed out "it's a tricky situation" given Suaalii is still 16 and yet to play at the top grade.

"It's a lot of pressure for a kid to be under," Graham said. "Whatever decision he makes, that's his decision."

The halfway mark: Tackle of the year

Meanwhile, Johnston has been in touch with rival clubs as he looks to find a new home for 2021. Souths are unable to accommodate him.

"At the moment I haven't really moved forward with anything. I'm just focused on playing footy and hopefully that interest comes into something soon," Johnston said.

"When I'm out there [on the field], I'm obviously not thinking about it at all. Throughout the week I try to stay focused and compartmentalise a bit.

"Knowing there's a bit of interest out there definitely helps, it's just hoping that moves into something else sooner rather than later."

Johnston will line up at fullback for the second week in a row against Canberra due to Latrell Mitchell being suspended, but said he'd be fine with playing wing for another team next season.

"Priority wise, I want to be playing finals footy," he said.

The halfway mark: Try of the year

The Rabbitohs are eighth at the halfway mark of the Telstra Premiership as they prepare to take on Canberra, who beat them in last year's preliminary final at GIO Stadium.

"There's obviously a little bit of fire beneath us about that game there, the prelim final," prop Junior Tatola said.

"But it's obviously a new year and we're just looking to build off last week and play better footy."

Graham added: "You can't really dwell on the past too much. I don't need to use old games as motivation, to be honest. We'll just focus on this week."

Raiders confident their depth can beat any team

Winger Jaxson Paulo, 20, will get his second start after showing he could handle the NRL stage in last week's loss to Newcastle.

"He's a big body, 102 kilos, and he's got a lot of skill," Graham said.

"He's a very mature character so he's good to have out there and I can't wait to see what he can do in the next few games."

Centre James Roberts (pectoral) and forward Ethan Lowe (neck) are out long-term for South Sydney after suffering injuries last week.

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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