Rookie sensation Moses Suli to make his NRL debut for Wests Tigers in round one
Moses Suli, yet to play a NSW Cup game or finish an NYC fixture, is set to make one of the most remarkable NRL debuts for the Wests Tigers on Friday night.
Suli has earned a spot in the blockbuster clash against South Sydney at ANZ Stadium as a replacement for Tim Simona, who has been stood down following allegations he arranged bets against his team.
The shock elevation of Suli, who became the highest-paid player yet to play NRL when he signed a record $1.3 million extension, will give fans a chance to see what all the fuss is about.
The Bulldogs and Storm aggressively courted Suli, despite the fact back issues prevented him from finishing off his two NYC appearances. However, the teenage centre stuck with the Tigers and was rewarded with a call-up to the Auckland Nines.
Suli showed he wasn’t out of place during that tournament and subsequent trials, prompting coach Jason Taylor to give him a call-up ahead of utility Jordan Rankin.
Suli will make his debut on the wing alongside centre Jamal Idris, who is also making his first appearance for the Wests Tigers.
While much of the hype in the lead-up to the Rabbitohs clash has focused on Robbie Farah’s first game against the Tigers, the Suli-Idris combination will be another big talking point.
Suli trained on the wing on Monday and is expected to be officially named in the Tigers line-up on Tuesday.
The 18-year-old quit rugby league three years ago following the shock death of his father, Manu. When he eventually returned to the game to trial with Parramatta after a six-month sabbatical, he didn’t make the cut.
However, the Fairfield United junior found a home at the Tigers and wants to honour his father’s memory by becoming an established first grader.
“I want to make my dad proud,” Suli said in a recent interview with Fairfax Media. “He always wanted me to play footy since I was born. That’s all I wanted to do.”
It’s been far from a perfect preparation to the season-opener for the Tigers, who are nursing a series of niggling injuries to their biggest name players just four days out from their clash against the Rabbitohs.
Five-eighth Mitchell Moses missed most of the team’s session on Monday and only had limited time at a restricted intensity as he battles to overcome bone bruising in his ankle.
His halves partner Luke Brooks, who has been hampered by a hamstring injury, required a rubdown on the injured leg during the team’s session but is expected to play on Friday night.
Fullback James Tedesco spent the first half of training doing individual drills, later joining the team on a restricted workload.
Skipper Aaron Woods was given an early mark from training, finishing the session on the bike, while centre Idris required strapping on his knee as he prepares for his first game back in the NRL since 2015.
Idris, who left the Panthers on a personal journey of self discovery around the world, admitted he was itching to get back out on the paddock.
“It will all seem surreal until I run out on the field,” Idris said. "That’s when it will all hit me. It’ll be a bit of fun, I’ll tell you that much. That’s what I miss more about it – the adrenaline rush you get. It’s so addictive. The thing you miss most of all is actually running out on to that field.
“A night game, the lights shining down on you, thousands of people in the crowd and then you look up and see your own face on the big screen. That’s what you miss – that rush is second to none. You run out on a footy field, that feeling for 80 minutes – it’s actually insane.”