Sydney Roosters teen prodigy Joseph Suaalii is the latest high-profile player to elect to represent his Samoan heritage at the upcoming World Cup.
The 19-year-old has scored 16 tries in 24 appearances for the Roosters since bursting onto the NRL scene in 2021.
Suaalii was born and raised in Australia to a Samoan father and an Australian mother of Cambodian and European heritage.
The 6ft 5in winger phoned Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga earlier this week to let him know that he was going to represent Samoa at the World Cup this autumn.
Suaalii told NewsCorp: “For family reasons, I have decided to pledge my allegiance to Samoa for the upcoming World Cup.
“This has been one of the most difficult decisions of my career. I’ve been humbled by the respect shown to me and my family by Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga.
“I personally called him on Tuesday to let him know of my decision. I can’t thank him enough for considering me but this is about more than football.
“This is about respecting my family and the sacrifices they have made for me throughout my career.
“My grandparents still live in Samoa and I am looking forward to honouring them and my parents by pulling on the Samoan jersey.
“One day, I hope to play for Australia. I truly believe Samoa can do great things at this World Cup. I can’t wait to be part of it.”
Samoa coach delighted to have Joseph Suaalii on board
Suaalii will join a star-studded Samoan squad which includes the likes of Jarome Luai, Brian To’o, Stephen Crichton, Marty Taupau and Josh Papali’i.
Samoa boss Matt Parish said: “I really admire what these guys have done because they are putting aside their own personal wealth for the best interests of their families and obviously Samoa.
“It is very exciting the calibre of players who want to be involved so it is certainly very good.”
Castleford coach Lee Radford will link up with Samoa’s backroom team as an assistant coach. He will assist Parish along with former Salford and Hull half-back Daniel Holdsworth.