BREAKING: Wests Tigers begin bloodletting as Isaiah Papali'i joins Penrith on multi-year deal

George Clarke
AAP
Wests Tigers have released New Zealand Test forward Isaiah Papali'i to join Penrith.
Wests Tigers have released New Zealand Test forward Isaiah Papali'i to join Penrith. Credit: AAP

Wests Tigers’ roster overhaul is in full swing after the club released New Zealand Test forward Isaiah Papali’i to join Penrith.

Papali’i will link up with the Panthers on a three-year deal in 2025 after an indifferent spell at the Tigers.

He left Parramatta at the end of 2022 but has failed to recapture the same level of form since arriving at Concord.

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There have been rumblings over his future for the best part of a year, and his exit is expected to clear up valuable salary cap space for Tigers coach Benji Marshall.

“This is purely about getting our salary cap in better shape, and it’s not a simple thing to do,” said Tigers chief executive Shane Richardson.

“Effective salary-cap management is so important in this business, and it’s a puzzle you simply must get right if you want to be a successful NRL club.”

Richardson has recently headed to England to try to offload some of the club’s highest earners and set Marshall up for success.

After showing promising signs under Marshall, the Tigers have slumped to a 2-8 record.

Richardson’s eagerness to move players out is a necessity as the club prepares for the arrival of Penrith’s five-eighth Jarome Luai, with playmaker Jayden Sullivan also likely to follow Papali’i out the door.

Papali’i’s move to Penrith also effectively ends the Panthers’ pursuit of Sydney Roosters forward Angus Crichton.

The arrival of 25-year-old Papali’i, who can play in the middle or an edge, will go some way to covering the loss of James Fisher-Harris, who has agreed to move to the Warriors next season.

“We’re thrilled to have secured Isaiah’s services for the next three seasons,” Panthers Rugby League CEO Matt Cameron said.

“Not only does Isaiah bring a wealth of experience and leadership capabilities to our club, but he’s also a world-class forward who has proven himself at the highest level.”

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