BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 22: Tevita Pangai Junior of the Broncos during the round two NRL match between the Brisbane Broncos and the North Queensland Cowboys at Suncorp Stadium on March 22, 2019 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

The NRL's most captivating contract drama is one step closer to coming to a close, with the Brisbane Broncos officially releasing Tevita Pangai Junior from his playing contract this evening.

Just hours after the Bulldogs officially announced the off-contract second rower would be joining the club on a new three-year deal from next season, the Broncos officially parted ways with the 25-year-old.

It's understood the Broncos' second rower wants to chase a premiership before joining the Bulldogs next season, and a likely switch to the Panthers will follow in the next 24 hours.

In the on-again, off-again saga, Penrith initially denied interest after it was first reported on Tuesday morning, however, by Wednesday morning, interest had apparently been renewed.

Prop and forward pack leader James Fisher-Harris is wanting to return to Sydney for the birth of his child, meaning he will miss a minimum of three weeks, owing to an enforced quarantine period upon his return to the Queensland NRL bubble. It's understood he will play this weekend and then leave the bubble.

Penrith have identified Pangai Junior as an excellent bench option, with it being likely he would be able to replace Scott Sorensen.

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It's understood the men from the foot of the mountains have reportedly warded off a push from Parramatta to sign Pangai Junior, who were rumoured to be interested and have the salary cap space available.

In a club statement, Broncos football and performance Director Ben Ikin wished Pangai Junior well. and said the club was making decisions for its future.

“We wish Tevita all the best and we believe the fresh start is a good result for him and for the Broncos," said Ikin.

“Our club is moving through a process of making decisions for the long-term good of the playing roster and as a result we are seeing some players depart.

“We have also had a number of players re-sign and extend with the Broncos in recent months, as well as some high-quality players decide to join us here in Brisbane.

“We are making good progress in finalising our squad for the 2022 season and beyond, and we will continue to work closely with all of our players as we complete that process.”

Should Pangai Junior do the expected and join the Panthers on a short-term deal until the end of the year, he will be unable to play this weekend given teams have already been named.

His first hitout for Ivan Cleary's side would be the following week, in Round 20 as Penrith take on the Melbourne Storm in a game where the side are also due to welcome back New South Wales Origin half Nathan Cleary.

State of Origin - QLD v NSW: Game 1
ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 04: Nathan Cleary of the Blues offloads the ball during game one of the 2020 State of Origin series between the Queensland Maroons and the New South Wales Blues at the Adelaide Oval on November 04, 2020 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

The contract is expected to be finalised tomorrow by Penrith, subject to the NRL making it official.

The Panthers currently sit second on the NRL table, however, are equal with the Melbourne Storm on points.