State of Origin; Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii has blacked out the critics

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There aren’t many 20-year-olds with the maturity that Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii has, which explains why the Roosters star has withstood intense media scrutiny over whether he should be selected for his State of Origin debut as he begins playing rugby in 2025.

Suaalii will join the 15-man squad on a multi-million dollar contract, but that did not stop Blues coach Michael Maguire from selecting him at centre for next week’s opening game against the Maroons in Sydney.

The 1.96m aerialist has developed into one of the strongest ball carriers in the NRL, but there were still his doubters who questioned whether he was truly committed to his state as he dreams of playing for the Wallabies too.

“I understand because everyone has an opinion,” he said.

“I respect their opinion so I’m not going to sit here and attack them because that doesn’t make any sense to me. I’m just focused on my family and myself and playing football for the Roosters.

“People can have their opinions, but until I hear it from the actual source, like Madge or the coaches, those are the only people I listen to. You can read the media and the news, but you don’t really believe it until you hear it from the source.”

The Roosters star appreciates the media’s role in promoting the game but was disappointed that he was portrayed in a way that made the public question his intentions.

“I know the media plays a big role in what people think and what perceptions they have,” he says, having made a lot of negative headlines after joining rugby last year.

“The stories appear on social media and are read by children. Many older people then read the newspaper and get this impression.

“I fully understand the role of the media, but sometimes it is frustrating when people read newspapers and children see headlines on social media that are not true.

“I just stay true to myself, and as long as my family and my best friends know how I feel and that everything is true, that’s all that matters to me.”

Suaalii openly admits that throughout his journey he had doubts about whether he would make it this far, but the man once touted as the game’s next big talent has lived up to expectations and will fulfill a childhood dream next week.

“I put the jersey on and looked in the mirror, and you still have to pinch yourself,” he said.

“I was a four-year-old boy and now I can fulfil a dream. That’s why it’s special to put on the Blues sweater because I’ve worked so hard to get to this point.

“You can’t really put your feelings into words.

“I think I knew when I was 13 or 14 that I could play football and that this was a gift from heaven for me.

“From then on, I set goals and made things happen. I always wanted to wear a Blues jersey and to have achieved that now is something very special.”

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