NRL Rd 18 - Eels v Warriors
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 15: Isaiah Papali'i of the Eels thanks the crowd after the round 18 NRL match between the Parramatta Eels and the New Zealand Warriors at CommBank Stadium on July 15, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

Parramatta Eels back-rower Isaiah Papali’i has once again refused to confirm his future ahead of the club’s sudden-death semi-final against the Canberra Raiders.

Papali’i has signed a contract to join Wests Tigers from next year, but reports have grown in frequency and volume in recent months that he may decide to back-flip on the deal given the coaching change and constant instability that has shrouded the Tigers this year.

But despite the prospect of this Friday’s encounter being his last game in the blue and gold, Papali’i still refused to confirm he would join the Tigers at the season’s end during an interview with Fox Sports’ Luke Doherty.

“For me personally, I want to make sure I play every game like it’s my last,” Papali’i said.

“But I also want to do my job and ensure we still have another week ahead of us.

“For me, what we have at hand at the moment is a massive opportunity and it’s do-or-die, so I’m kind of focused right now on this Friday and what I can do for the club here and now.”

When pressed further on the matter, Papali’i admitted he could understand the frustration of Tigers fans, but he wouldn’t be rushed into any ill-conceived statement.

“Everyone wants to hear (that I’m coming), but I can’t say anything just now. I’m really focused on the 2022 season, that’s what I’m 100% focused on.

“I can’t really comment on (the situation), we’ll just leave it at that.

“Once this year is done I can sit down with my manager, talk through those things and figure out what’s going on next season.”

When asked about his communication with new coaches Tim Sheens and Benji Marshall, Papali’i was quick to praise the duo and their long term vision, despite being non-committal.

“(They spoke about) their direction moving forward and what kind of coaching role Benji would have and how Tim would help him. It was straightforward, but nice to talk to them and hear what they had to say and what they’re looking for – not only this season but in the future.”

It’s still hard to tell just how much of a role the Eels are playing in any possible indecision, but the gun back-rower was quick to assert that Brad Arthur wasn’t trying to influence or undermine the deal.

“Brad understands everyone has their own journey and what my journey is, he’s been supportive of whatever decision I make,” he said.