Good news for Roosters’ salary cap with rugby raid – but a potential body blow as well

The Roosters are on course to be given salary cap relief following their acquisition of Wallabies winger Mark Nawaqanitawase but they won’t get any favours if they lure Joseph Suaalii back from rugby.

Granting salary cap exemptions for rugby recruits was discussed at the ARL Commission meeting on Thursday and is set to be rubber-stamped in March.

That could mean the majority or all of his salary could be exempt from the salary cap when he makes the cross-code leap in 2025.

However, the Roosters will not be given cap relief if they succeed in their plan to convince Suaalii to return to the NRL following his three-year contract with Rugby Australia.

Nawaqanitawase has reportedly signed a two-year deal with the Tricolours worth $900,000 in total.

Mark Nawaqanitawase. (Photo by Mackenzie Sweetnam/Getty Images)

Waratahs prodigy Max Jorgensen is also in the crosshairs of NRL talent scouts but any club who signs a rugby player for 2024 will not be granted salary cap exemptions.

“The discounts were never going to be in place for 2024, but there is still an appetite for it,” ARL chair Peter V’landys told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“We’ll discuss it at length next March. It was raised at a board meeting a few years ago, but I want to stress it was never about targeting Rugby Australia. The idea was about giving clubs a discount for signing any top player from another code who would add another dimension to rugby league.”

On the prospect of Suaalii potentially returning under an exemption down the track, V’landys was adamant “that won’t happen”.

We look forward to Mark joining us in 2025 ????#EastsToWin

— Sydney Roosters ???? (@sydneyroosters) December 7, 2023

“The discount will only be for new players,” he told the SMH. “If we allowed for that to happen, it would only encourage players to join rugby knowing they can come back at a discounted rate for clubs. That has already been ruled out.”

The ARL Commission is also advancing with its plan to expand the competition in 2026 with a decision to be made in the first half of next year about whether to go ahead with an 18th team.

A Papua New Guinea side, with the financial backing of the Australian government, is the favourite to get the nod while there is also interest from South-East Queensland and Perth following the successful introduction of the Dolphins last season.

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