Special talent’: Manly’s plan to stop Koula following Suaalii back to rugby
News of Joseph Suaalii’s mega deal with Rugby Australia has prompted Manly to ramp up talks with Wallabies target Tolutau Koula.
Sea Eagles boss Tony Mestrov confirmed that the weekend news of Suaalii’s code switch
had raised concerns Koula might follow suit.
Koula played with Suaalii in the Australian Schoolboys rugby team that ended a seven-year drought against New Zealand in 2019, and has reportedly been offered around $800,000 a year to become the next NRL youngster to make the move back to the 15-man game.
Not only quick, Koula showed how tough he was when he heard a “pop” in his knee and played on in pain for more than half the game on Saturday night against South Sydney
. He will undergo surgery for an MCL strain and be sidelined for up to six weeks.
“He’s a special talent, he has electric speed, he’s a very good defender and a key part of our team in the future,” Mestrov told the Herald. “He’s only 20, so he has a big future at this club. He’s a player we don’t want to let go.
“We’ve spoken with [player agent] ‘Chimes’ [Steve Gillis], and Chimes has told us rugby are interested. Tolu is already signed for 2023 and 2024, but we’ve started to put together an offer that will keep him at Manly beyond that time.”
Tolutau Koula and Manly have ramped up talks in a bid to stop him following good friend Joseph Suaalii to rugby.CREDIT:GETTY IMAGES
Given he is off contract at the end of next year, Koula, a fleet-footed centre, could follow Suaalii out the door and be parachuted into the Wallabies side for the spring tour of Europe next November. That would give him time to prepare for the all-important British and Irish Lions series on Australian soil the following year.
Manly would be open to an extension of two years, or potentially three, which would tie Koula to the Northern Beaches until the end of 2027, wiping out any chance of playing in the Rugby World Cup that year.
The club is also mindful Koula has only played 23 NRL games, and know the need to be sensible when it comes to outlaying a large chunk of their salary cap on potential alone.
Manly coach Anthony Seibold worked as Eddie Jones’ assistant in the England rugby set-up, and the pair have had conversations about Koula and his future.
Tolutau Koula (far left) and Joey Suaalii (third from left, middle row) celebrate with the 2019 Australian schoolboys rugby teamCREDIT:INSTAGRAM
“We wouldn’t be doing our job if we weren’t concerned about Koula following the news of the weekend, we are concerned, but we are also being proactive by having discussions with him about his future,” Mestrov said.
“‘Seibs’ has a good relationship with Eddie, who admitted his interest in Koula. We’ve known it was coming. But we think we’re building something special at Manly, and we want him to be a part of it.
“He’s a quiet kid but a great kid, and part of the culture we want to build moving forward - he’s a special talent but a hard worker who gets along with others in the group.”
As for the latest injury, Seibold said of Koula: “He’ll get operated on Tuesday. He did it in the first half, so he’s a tough bugger.
“He heard a pop but didn’t tell anyone and played the whole game. By playing on he didn’t do any more damage. It says a lot about Tolu and says a lot about our group at the moment. We wanted to compete really strongly on what was a pretty special occasion for Souths, and we went there, fought hard and made it a good contest. Tolu’s actions exemplified that.”
Meanwhile, NRL head of elite football Graham Annesley said referee Chris Sutton should not have ruled a forward pass on Saturday night when Tom Trbojevic was about to score.
“It was the wrong decision, it was a misjudgement by the referee, and play should have been allowed to continue,” Annesley saint