NRL News: ‘No doubt’ NFL scouts will be sniffing cross code star, Gilbert goes for scans


The NRL’s assault on Las Vegas begins in earnest this week as the eyes of the rugby league world turn to the season openers at Allegiant Stadium – and there has been plenty of chatter about the players who might be adapt to the US’s native footy.

One of the strongest links is Roosters back Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii, himself no stranger to a code switch given that he will join rugby union at the end of this season, with former NFL player Colin Scotts declaring that the Samoa international will be tracked closely by American Football scouts.

“If America gets a sniff of ­Joseph, there’s no doubt they will put out a big contract for him,” he told the Daily Telegraph.

“Joseph has absolutely raw talent.

“Look at Kelce in the Super Bowl. Suaalii is definitely in that same mould – six-foot-five, six-foot-six – they are both co-ordinated with great ball skills and attitude, and what I love about Joseph, he’s really strong in defence…I’m sure the American scouts will be looking at him, definitely. Rugby league has caught the imagination of America.

“He could easily grab $10m per season if he succeeded in the NFL.

“The way Joseph can jump in the air is something the ­Americans love. He is one of those God-given athletes who can jump really high. It’s one of the biggest tests they do, the vertical leap. He would rip that.

“He goes looking for it, he’s very aggressive and marketable – he ticks all the boxes to become an NFL player. They’ll be looking at him.”

Another, perhaps less qualified judge is Channel 9 presenter Karl Stefanovic, who tipped Reece Walsh from his beloved Broncos to steal American hearts.

“You can quote me on this … Reece Walsh is the guy most likely to light up the US agents come Sunday,” he told the Courier-Mail.

“It’s super hard to transition to the NFL, but Walsh has got it. And he’s young enough.”

Stefanovic was speaking as part of an announcement that he has invested in ‘NRL America’, a proposed professional comp in the States.

“I’ve bought into the concept with my personal Brisbane lawyer Daniel Hannay,” said the Today Show star.

“He rang me (about the US Super League concept) and I said, ‘Yes’ in a heartbeat.

“I’ll do anything to promote the greatest game in the world. Peter V’landys is a genius … this concept will work.”

(Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Dolphins brace for NRL season without injured Gilbert

Tom Gilbert will have scans on his injured knee on Monday as the Dolphins and Queensland prepare for the likelihood of another campaign without him.

The 23-year-old went down without contact while trying to make a tackle on Warriors centre Rocco Berry in the Dolphins’ 34-22 loss in Auckland in an NRL pre-season trial on Saturday.

Gilbert’s knee twisted and he could be seen screaming in pain as he fell to the ground, before being helped off the field by two medical team members.

Coach Wayne Bennett said initial tests indicated he had torn the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in what would be a season-ending blow.

“He’ll go for a scan but it looks like it is an ACL injury. The (medical staff) haven’t confirmed it yet but that is what they believe because of the symptoms,” Bennett told AAP.

“It is disappointing but that’s the game they play. I admire Tom because he does his best for you all the time.

“He’s just to get it right, come back and go again. He is not the first player this has happened to.”

A lengthy spell out would be a cruel turn for the Dolphins entering their second season.

But even more so for Gilbert, who missed more than half of the 2023 campaign after a shoulder injury sustained in State of Origin required surgery.

Bennett has strong depth to call on but Gilbert, who last year inked an extension with the Dolphins until the end of 2028, is the side’s spiritual leader who drives standards on and off the field.

“We all want Tom to be playing but it is not going to happen,” Bennett said.

“We have quality players in the squad so we just have to get on with the season.”

Tough Dolphins forward Ray Stone ruptured his ACL two years ago at Parramatta. Last year at the Dolphins he battled injury and had shoulder surgery in the off-season. The uncompromising lock looms as a prime contender to fill Gilbert’s position.

“Ray is in the Tom Gilbert category. He plays the same type of footy,” Bennett said.

Gilbert didn’t start Saturday’s contest and had made only one run before his injury, in what was his second game back from a shoulder reconstruction.

“He’s in there pretty disappointed at the moment, obviously just coming back from last year’s injury in the Origin,” Dolphins assistant coach Nathan Fien said post-game.

“He’s a big part of our team and we are just gutted for him at the moment but obviously we just have to wait and see what the scans say.”

With AAP

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