Prominent NRL writer James Hooper has donned new Eels star Isaiah Papali’i as the “bargain buy of the year”.
Speaking in his piece on Fox Sports News, Hooper flagged the Parramatta lock as the best deal of 2021 off the back of his superb performances for the Sydney-based side.
The 22-year-old Kiwi native has looked in incredible shape since his move across the ditch, scoring four tries in just six matches this season for the Eels.
OH the footwork is SO SWEET.
Isaiah Papali'i makes it TWO for the Eels.
— Fox League (@FOXNRL) April 5, 2021
Papali’i started off his career in Auckland with the Warriors, debuting in 2017 as an 18-year-old following his youth career with Te Atatu Roosters.
Over the course of his four seasons with the Warriors, the forward made 63 appearances for the side, scoring seven tries.
It’s this sudden burst of scoring from Papali’i in tandem with the cut-price deal that he signed that has earned him the title of ‘steal of the season’ from Hooper.
The lock took a hefty pay cut to sign on with the Eels, giving up $200,000 of his yearly salary to put pen-to-paper on a $150,000 deal which keeps him in Parramatta until the end of 2022.
Papali’i’s stunning form has seen the Eels leap out of the blocks in season 2021, with Brad Arthur’s side starting the year with five wins and a loss and sitting pretty in third place on the ladder.
This weekend, the Eels travel to Darwin to take on the low-flying Broncos on Friday night, with the team hoping to make it six wins from seven rounds.