Joseph Suaalii granted him the status of Samoan chief before the age of 20

He doesn’t drink and a lot of people in NRL circles can’t remember anyone that young with his character.

“They told me it’s rare for someone my age to have that honor,” Suaalii said the herald.

“But I should get that matai title before playing for Samoa. I think just because they see me as someone that younger people can look up to, that’s my role at home.

“They haven’t had anyone play NRL before and they’re very proud, it’s about representing my family and my village and giving back to that community.

“I don’t see it as a responsibility, it’s more of a way of living my life. When I leave a good legacy for the next person to come, the next Samoan kid to come through, that’s special to me.”

Such is the attitude towards life of the teenager. Suaalii traveled alone through Japan for three weeks before rejoining his family in Samoa. Since then he has taken language and culture classes with the aim of becoming fluent. Cambodian heritage on his maternal family side also features heavily on his backpacking bucket list.

Joseph Suaalii on duty for Samoa.

Joseph Suaalii on duty for Samoa.Credit:Getty

“I’m learning who I am and where I’m going,” Suaalii said. “I’ve always seen Dad’s love for Samoa and now after playing for them and coming back home and having those experiences I just want to explore them more.

“I’m opening up to it because it will help me figure out who I want to be in life… Traveling solo was about the freedom and challenge of being alone abroad. Opening my eyes to a different culture and waking up in a completely different place than Bondi.”

Suaalii will likely be an A-list celebrity in Samoa for the rest of his life.


Annual family outings in anonymity are a thing of the past after he and his World Cup teammates were greeted with a rock star reception at receptions with the Prime Minister of Samoa and countless street parades.

“I’ve been to Samoa many times, but this time, literally everyone knew me,” Suaalii said.

“Honestly, everywhere I went, and it was the same with the other guys, it was just overwhelming.

“It was crazy. Everyone at the airport knows you, you eat somewhere, you take pictures [with fans] the whole time. Love is overwhelming and very humbling.

“Also from the family. We are building my grandfather a house and he wants it painted Roosters colors now, we have a lot of fans. It was just mental, very surreal.”

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Ryan Sederquist

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