Phil Buzz Rothfield, Michael Clarke, heated argument, Sydney Roosters, Joseph Suaalii, James Tedesco, full-back, contracts

Veteran rugby league journalist Phil Rothfield and cricket legend Michael Clarke have butted heads in a heated argument over a moment involving Roosters stars Joseph Suaalii and James Tedesco.

Rothfield broke the news last week that Suaalii had signed a one-year extension to stay with the Tricolors through the end of 2024.

It means the club face a big decision regarding their long-term full-back while at the same time Tedesco is unsigned.

In his Monday column, Rothfield pointed to a moment during the Tricolors’ win on Saturday afternoon when the 19-year-old broke through the Warriors’ defense.

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Suaalii, on the other hand, opted to pass the ball on inside Tedesco and instead ran himself before dumping to Sam Walker, who dived to score the try.

While Rothfield stressed that Suaalii was “not a selfish player”, he said the moment would only put the spotlight on the full-back’s struggle. He also compared the situation to that of the Rabbitohs with champion halfback Adam Reynold.

By the end of 2024, Tedesco will be 32 and Suaalii just 21, with both aiming to wear the No. 1 shirt and the Kangaroos skipper has reportedly already started talks about an extension.

“I wrote today about the situation of Joseph Suaalii and James Tedesco, both of whom are out of contract at the end of next year,” Rothfield said on the Big sports breakfast.

“In that game there was a big incident on Saturday when Suaalii broke through the left side of Luke Keary, he had Tedesco untagged in him and didn’t fit him.

“In moments like this, it only makes tongues howl.”

“Wait, do you think Suaalii wasn’t a good fit for Tedesco, wait a minute because they both want the full-back position so they’re not happy with each other?” Clarke replied.

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“Have you read my column? Did you see the game?” Rothfield asked.

“I’ve seen bits of it, so please tell me what you’re saying?” Clarke said.

“You’re challenging me, so I’m going to challenge you when you’ve actually read the column … well, maybe you should, because I made it clear to Clarkey in the column that Joseph Suaalii is not a selfish gambler,” Rothfield said.

“I also said in the column that no matter how great a player he is, he will make a thousand mistakes in the next ten years.

“I was just saying that there was a perception at the time that it could have been seen as selfish and it was a coincidence with the debate about the two players wanting the shirt.”

Clarke hit back, saying he doesn’t think either player doesn’t “have a selfish bone in their bodies” but agreed both have ambitions to wear the No.1 shirt in the future.

“I don’t think they would do that at all, I don’t think that would ever be the case, I think you’re spot on, they’d both love to play (defenders),” Clarke said.

“Tedesco is No. 1 for NSW and Australia and obviously this young kid will want to play full-back at some point, but I don’t think any of these players would do that on a football pitch.”

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Rothfield also pointed to Reynolds’ departure from the Rabbitohs after the Redfern-based club was unwilling to offer the long extension the veteran halfback was seeking.

Reynolds eventually signed with the Broncos, and the Roosters may have a similar call to make next season.

“I would put it down more to experience but it was just the fact that this debate was going on, Joseph wants to play full-back, he really wants to play full-back,” Rothfield said.

“What I wrote this morning could be the Roosters’ Adam Reynolds moment, where Reynolds was basically due to his age and salary cap pressures and kids coming through.

“They were very reluctant to give him an extension of what he was looking for and I’m not saying that’s going to happen with Tedesco… I don’t know if he’s the best player in the game, but he’s in talks.” Phil Buzz Rothfield, Michael Clarke, heated argument, Sydney Roosters, Joseph Suaalii, James Tedesco, full-back, contracts

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