Suaalii given green light to play in NRL before 18th birthday

·1-min read

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Sydney Roosters talent Joseph Suaalii has been granted an exemption to play in Australia's top flight National Rugby League before his 18th birthday, the league said.

Suaalii, who turns 18 in August and was the centre of a tug-of-war between the NRL and Australian rugby union last year, will be available for selection for the Roosters' second round clash against Wests Tigers this weekend.

The Australian Rugby League commission, the sport's national governing body, approved Suaalii's exemption on Monday, the NRL's website said.

NRL Chief Executive Andrew Abdo said the league had considered the Roosters' "welfare and education management plan", as well as independent expert advice.

"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," Abdo said in a statement.

Jason Taumalolo was the last 17-year-old to play in the NRL, when he debuted for the North Queensland Cowboys in 2010.

The NRL later banned players under 18 from the top flight but league boss Peter V'landys said last year he would assess players on a case-by-case basis.

(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)