Rugby AU CEO Rob Clarke has hit out at "tired and tireless" speculation about the organisation's potential signing of teen sensation Joseph Suaalii.
A News Corp report on Tuesday afternoon said that Suaalii was set to turn his back on a deal with NRL side South Sydney for a multi-million dollar deal with Rugby Australia.
At the time, Clarke described the reported $3 million figure as "fanciful" and said no agreement had been struck with Suaalii.
Rugby Australia copped flak from a number of pundits on Wednesday over the possibility of a big money deal, given the organisation's financial challenges this year and the pay cuts its biggest name have taken.
The national organisation has let go more than a third of its full-time workforce and required a loan from World Rugby to ensure its short-term financial stability in the wake of coronavirus.
Clarke reiterated his frustration about speculation on Wednesday evening in a statement, saying that money wasn't the only pull for a potential rugby prospect.
“Rugby has a lot to offer young talent in this country, with an exciting future for Super Rugby and in a post COVID-19 world, the international opportunities only our game can offer," he said.
“The Olympic Games, the Commonwealth Games, the touring British & Irish Lions and the Rugby World Cup are four premier events in the global calendar and it’s only our sport that provides athletes the opportunity to represent Australia and compete against the best in the world on a regular basis."
“The continued speculation about the financial offer from certain sections of the media is a tired and timeless tactic of attempting to pressure a young man into one choice and how dare anyone have the temerity to choose to play rugby over another option?
"To be clear, whilst rugby cannot compete financially with our friends in the 13-man game here in Australia, many professional athletes choose to become part of our game because of the many other positive attributes and global opportunities it provides…it’s not all about money.”
Clarke said Rugby AU would support Suaalii in his next move, whether he opted to stay in rugby or move to a different code.
“We congratulate Joseph on his journey so far in rugby and we will continue to put our best foot forward, like we do with all our young talent, in the expansive opportunities that rugby can offer," he said.
“In this instance, Joseph may decide to pursue opportunities elsewhere and should he choose to do so, we would wish him every bit of luck in the future. Rugby will stand up and fight to be part of this conversation though, and conversations with other prospects into the future.
"Rugby’s pathways in Australia - in both club and school rugby - continue to produce world class talent and that is a testament to our coaches and our talent identification program."
“Rugby has the best workplace conditions in the professional game with the consistent support for training, education and wellbeing provided by Rugby Union Players’ Association (RUPA).
"Rugby Australia develops far more than just athletes but real people who embark on a pathway that does not cease when they are no longer taking the field, you are a part of the rugby family for life."