NRL CEO Andrew Abdo says the exemption granted to Roosters prodigy Joseph Suaalii will be "very rare" after he, his father and Trent Robinson helped convince the ARL Commission he is ready for the rigours of first grade.
As first reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, Suaalii's exemption was approved by the Commission on Monday morning, potentially bringing the rising star into first-grade contention as early as this weekend's clash with Wests Tigers.
However, Trent Robinson is unlikely to blood Suaalii unless the Tricolours suffer an injury out wide given representative stars fill each of their back five positions.
NRL rules state players must be 18 to play first grade but ARL chairman Peter V'landys first flagged an exemption for the schoolboy talent last year when he was still on South Sydney's books.
Speaking on Inside the NRL on NRL.com on Monday afternoon, Abdo said he did not expect Suaalii's exemption to be repeated often in the game given the exhaustive submission the Roosters went through to prove the teen star's physical and mental fitness for the top flight.
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"We've spent the last couple of weeks working with the club to understand how those risks can be mitigated and to make sure this is an exemption which to be honest I think would be very rare," Abdo said.
"It's important to note that he's turning 18 on the 1st of August.
"In our discussions with the Roosters certainly their plan is to transition him to playing in the NRL over a number of weeks.
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"Who knows he may actually only take the field a few weeks before his 18th birthday."
Should Suaalii debut before he turns 18 in August he will be the youngest debutant since a 17-year-old Jason Taumalolo played for the Cowboys in 2010.
Robinson is understood to have met with Suaalii's principal at The Kings school to discuss how the youngster balances his HSC studies with Roosters training, while physical testing and a psychological assessment were also provided to the NRL.
Abdo said the Roosters welfare and education management plan, as well as "independent expert advice" and a sit-down with Suaalii, Robinson and his father saw the exemption eventually approved.
"This has been a rigorous process. Our decision is based on the independent advice of experts and information gathered from discussing Joseph’s school performance and discussions with the club and Joseph’s family," Abdo said.
"Given Joseph turns 18 in just four months time, the conservative approach the Roosters are taking in managing Joseph’s career, and the comprehensive education and wellbeing plans that are being implemented, the Commission decided to grant the club permission for Joseph’s contract to be registered prior to him turning 18.
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"We will continue to work closely with the Roosters to ensure the club complies with the plans and programs that have been put in place."
Suaalii scored a double in his first NSW Cup outing for feeder club North Sydney on Sunday, with his second try particularly eye-catching as he outjumped Tim Simona for a crossfield kick.
Fellow teen star Sam Walker was arguably more impressive in his first senior footy outing.
A dislocated wrist suffered by utility recruit Adam Keighran could bring Walker into contention for a bench spot as Freddy Lussick looms as Jake Friend's (concussion) replacement.