CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 17: Isaiah Papali'i of the Eels celebrates with team mates after scoring a try during the round six NRL match between the Canberra Raiders and the Parramatta Eels at GIO Stadium on April 17, 2021, in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by Matt Blyth/Getty Images)

Parramatta star forward Isaiah Papali'i will join the Wests Tigers for 2023 on a three-year deal.

Papali'i enjoyed a breakout campaign in his first season with the Eels this year, being named Dally M Second Rower of the Year following his efforts in the blue and gold.

The 23-year-old played 25 games for Parramatta in 2021, proving to be a try-scoring threat in attack while also boasting a strong tackling rate and running game.

After reaching new heights with the Eels following his departure from the Warriors at the conclusion of last year, the Samoan and New Zealand internaitonal's stocks quickly soared, placing some concern on Parramatta's books for the future.

Papali'i has gained interest from the Dolphins, with the NRL's newcomers having their advances knocked back by the Parramatta star.

However, the Tigers have swooped on Papali'i's asking price of more than $600,000-per-season, a fee the Eels reportedly struggled to compete with.

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"The Club worked with Isaiah and his management team to remain with the Club beyond his current contract including a significant upgrade for 2022, however he has chosen to take up an offer with another Club," Parramatta wrote in a club statement.

"Isaiah made a terrific contribution and has provided great value to the Club in 2021, and both Isaiah and the Club are committed to another strong year in the Blue and Gold in 2022."

The departure of Papali'i follows Marata Niukore's exit to the Warriors for 2023, with the Eels forward also understood to earn a significant wage with his new club.

Wests Tigers football boss Tim Sheens expressed his delight in having Papali'i venture to Concord for 2023.

“Isaiah is an exceptionally talented young forward who has shown himself to be a player with a fantastic attitude, work-ethic and drive,” Sheens said in a statement.

“We firmly believe that his best football is still ahead of him and we’re very excited to see him progress in next steps of his rugby league career with Wests Tigers.”

Both players will remain in Parramatta for next season before departing for their new clubs.

The twin departures are set to open some wiggle room for the Eels' financial planning for 2023 and beyond, with the likes of Clint Gutherson, Reed Mahoney, Dylan Brown, Haze Dunster, Ryan Matterson, Maika Sivo and Junior Paulo among those not signed past next year.

2 COMMENTS

  1. there is not much “wiggle” room with Papalii and Niukore moving on as they were not on big salaries with Parra to begin with – especially Papalii who is on a tick over $200k – geez some of these journos think that these players are already on their new deals with their old club which cannot be further from the truth, especially since they have to replace the departing player – even with a minimum wage player at $120k, the Eels will not be saving much – they will still be massively stretched to retain all of the other stars that they have not yet signed

  2. Rabbit Man, I agree with what are saying for next year but the journos are thinking Parra had allocated the $450k for Papalii and Niukore on future contracts, so that is the money ‘wiggle’ they will have available moving forward in 2023.

    Anyway, good luck to him and I hope he does really well as he was great for us this year. It was only 1 season and he needs to back those performances up next season. Whilst I’m disappointed that both didn’t resign, I’m happier that Parra isn’t paying overs…and both those guys are now on huge overs

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