“We did that every day for two years. We spent so much time together. Some days we’d study, other days we’d talk about how cool it would be to one day play in the NRL with each other, or even go up against each other, and what it would be like if we were on the same field together.
“This Sunday those dreams become a reality. There will be a banter. He’s on the other side of the field but, if I get the chance, I’ll give it to him.”
The pair stood out on the platform at Blacktown Station, decked out in The King’s School uniform.
“We’d get a few looks, but we wore it loud and proud,” Penisini said.
Penisini and Suaalii will stand out again just after 4pm in the Queensland capital on Sunday. Suaalii has been a walking headline since he quit South Sydney – and snubbed rugby – to link with the Roosters. A trial game in Queanbeyan on a summer’s day early last year was televised live, such was the interest in the lanky teen.
Penisini and Suaalii first met when playing in an under-11s Sydney West representative rugby league team. Penisini can still remember running out for the game, trying to jump over a rope, only to face plant and then hearing Suaalii break into laughter.
“He couldn’t stop laughing and still brings it up now whenever we catch up,” Penisini said. “I was meant to start the game, but I face planted and had to go to the bench and be consoled by Mum [Lucy].
One of the coaches of King’s first XV, Hugh Perrett, described Suaalii as the quiet achiever, while Penisini was the natural leader.
“Will was probably the best captain we had here at King’s in a long time,” Perrett said. “I’d love to see them back in rugby. We’d love to see Will at No.12 and Joey in the No.15 for the Wallabies.”
The announcement of the 2027 Rugby World Cup being on Australian soil will certainly arrive at the perfect time when the pair are in their prime years.
Penisini, off contract at Parramatta at the end of next season, certainly did not rule out an eventual switch back to the 15-man code. However, he loves rugby league right now, idolized Greg Inglis as a kid – “GI was always too big and too strong” – ahead of any Wallabies player, and is starting to make a name for himself at right center for Parramatta.
His physique, boyish good looks and the right amount of cheek evoke memories of former Eel Krisnan Inu. Parramatta coach Arthur says Penisini’s mold and skill set reminded him more of Michel Jennings.
Eels coach Arthur has known Penisini for years and watched him play all his junior football alongside son Jake.
“That game last year [in Magic Round], Jake, Sean, Will and Samuel, they had all played together for a long time, and were over the moon for Jake when he got his shot,” Arthur said. “They are good mates. They’ve all since debuted themselves.
“When they were kids, Will was one of those kids that when the game was in the balance, you’d get the ball to him because he’d do something special.
“He’s a power athlete, has explosive speed, can break tackles and has the footwork. He’s also getting better learning the defensive systems, which always takes time. He’s a good talker, confident in his ability and knows his stuff about him. ”
Penisini is just 14 games into his first-grade career, but has already shown signs he can handle the top level, jumping out of dummy-half and throwing an outside pass for Clint Gutherson to score against Penrith last week, which was all class.
Last year’s Magic Round was fun. This one, for Penisini, will be special. And worthy of another picture.
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