He’s been one of the most talked about players across the NRL in 2022, and now Parramatta Eels back-rower Isaiah Papali’i has confirmed that he’s still not 100% sure if he’ll honour his agreement with Wests Tigers ahead of a move to Concord next year.
Papali’i originally signed a three-year agreement starting from next season, but the deal has returned to uncertain waters following weeks of turmoil at the club that began with the sacking of former coach Michael Maguire.
“People ask me about it, even on the street, but that’s for my manager to look after,” Papali’i told Channel 9’s Danika Mason.
“If I don’t stay (at Parramatta), I still want to make sure I have no regrets this year.”
After weeks of speculation, the in-form Eel confirmed what had long been suspected – that it was the Tigers’ decision to part ways with Maguire that prompted him to re-evaluate the move.
“I think it was the coach axing,” he said.
“When I signed (for the Tigers) I was talking to Madge (Maguire) and he’s an awesome coach. The news rattled my cage a bit. They had to have those conversations, but it was a massive factor for me.”
With so much change at the club in recent weeks, headlined by the return of former coach Tim Sheens and club legend Benji Marshall to lead the team next year – as well as questions over the future make-up of the side – Papali’i isn’t getting distracted, saying he’ll leave the final decision for some time after the season concludes.
“(I’ll decide) somewhere in the off-season, it’s just distracting me at the moment. We have a massive opportunity and I don’t want to leave any stone unturned this year and look back on it thinking ‘I shouldn’t have let this (Tigers) stuff get in the way.’”
Papali’i is now focused on the Eels’ remaining games and the hopes of winning a premiership. The blue-and-gold have been boosted by back to back wins against Penrith and Manly and will be full of confidence ahead of the game with South Sydney on Friday night.
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“We’ve got a massive run home, I’m really looking forward to this Friday. We want to make sure we don’t let our fans down or – more importantly – let ourselves down.”
The Eels have lost their past five meetings with the Rabbitohs, including a 30-12 loss at Homebush back in Round 16.