Rugby Australia (RA) has lured Joseph-Aukuso Sua’ali’i away from rugby league, with the Sydney Roosters star switching codes after the 2024 NRL season.

RA confirmed on Saturday evening that Sua’ali’i would move to rugby union from October 2024, when his Roosters contract expires.

His RA deal – which will see him join the NSW Waratahs in Super Rugby Pacific — runs until at least the end of the 2027 Rugby World Cup, which Australia will host.

The move makes Sua’ali’i eligible to play for the Wallabies when the British and Irish Lions tour Australia in 2025.

Sua’ali’i is no stranger to rugby union, having represented the Australian Schoolboys and Under 18 representative team after playing both rugby codes throughout his junior career.

“Welcome back to rugby, Joseph,” RA chair Hamish McLennan said in a media statement.

The Roosters had earlier confirmed 19-year-old Sua’ali’i would be leaving the club after the 2024 season.

“The Sydney Roosters have been great to me and my family since I got here, and the club is always going to be a big part of me,” Sua’ali’i said in a Roosters media statement.

“There’s still a long way to go in my journey with the Roosters, and my sole focus is on working hard every day to keep improving and performing my role for the team.”

Roosters head coach Trent Robinson said the club respected Sua’ali’i’s decision.

“He has made his commitment to the Roosters club for the next year and a half crystal clear, and we’re excited about the path we’re on,” Robinson said.

A Samoa male rugby league international carries the ball as he is tackled by two Australian opponents.
Sua’ali’i (centre) played for Samoa against Australia in last year’s Rugby League World Cup final.(Getty Images/PA Images: Tim Goode)

Sua’ali’i was at the centre of a tug-of-war between the rugby codes in 2020 when he was still a student at The King’s School in Sydney.

Rugby league won out, although Sua’ali’i eventually chose the Roosters over South Sydney, with whom he had played at the junior level.

He was released from the remaining year of his contract with the Rabbitohs before making his NRL debut with the Roosters in 2021 after the ARL Commission granted him an exemption to play first grade before he had turned 18.

Sua’ali’I has played for Samoa at the Test level and appeared in last year’s Rugby League World Cup final loss to Australia.

He was also selected in NSW’s wider squad during the 2022 State of Origin series.