NRL Trial Match - Panthers v Sharks
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 20: J'maine Hopgood of the Panthers is tackled during the NRL Trial Match between the Penrith Panthers and the Cronulla Sharks at CommBank Stadium on February 20, 2022 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)

The Parramatta Eels have reportedly signed Penrith Panthers' youngster J'maine Hopgood.

The powerful middle forward, who is a Penrith junior and made his NRL debut last year, is rated as one of the better up and coming talents in the NRL.

Hopgood is a former Queensland junior state of Origin player, playing for the under-18s in 2017, and the under-20s in 2019.

He started in the second row on both of those occasions, playing alongside the likes of Ronaldo Mulitao, Murray Taulagi, Tesi Niu, Cory Paix, Tanah Boyd, Kobe Hetherington and Tino Fa'asuamaleaui.

Speaking on SEN Radio's The Jimmy Smith Show, Sydney Morning Herald journalist Adrian Proszenko said the deal for Hopgood to become an Eel was as good as done, with the club looking to replace a handful of departures at the end of this season.

"I think they (the Parramatta Eels) will trumpet something pretty soon," Proszenko said.

"We know they are looking to bolster their forward stocks, with the departure of Isaiah Papali'i and Marata Niukore. There is also a little bit of a question mark about whether Ryan Matterson will stay long-term.

"The club are very keen to keep him, but they obviously have some holes to fill, and I'll put it to you that one of those holes will be filled by J'maine Hopgood from their arch-rivals the Penrith Panthers."

It's believed other clubs were interested in the Penrith youngster, and while the Porszenko mentioned the Bulldogs were one of them, Zero Tackle understands the Dolphins had also shown interest at one point in the off-contract forward.

"In the little time that he has been in the top grade, Brad Arthur has seen more than enough to think he is someone who will add some value to the side," Proszenko added.

"They have been in talks for a while. There were a few other clubs who were interested. The Bulldogs were quite keen when Trent Barrett was there, but he will end up at Parramatta."

Hopgood has struggled to break through in the Penrith system, playing just six first-grade games since his Round 10, 2021 debut. He has only made one appearance this season.

That comes with the youngster being stuck behind a cop of strong forwards in Penrith's middle third, with James Fisher-Harris, Moses Leota and Isaah Yeo being backed up by the likes of Spencer Leniu and Scott Sorensen.

It means he has been forced into the NSW Cup system, where he has scored four tries in nine games this season, as well as making 21 tackle breaks, 23 offloads and 305 tackles at almost 95 per cent efficiency.