Dally M Second-Rower of the Year Isaiah Papali’i has knocked back a contract extension at the Eels to sign a three-year deal with the Tigers from 2023.
Both clubs confirmed the news on Thursday afternoon. One of the NRL’s most improved players, Papali’i will remain at Parramatta next season before making the switch to Concord.
In a statement, the Eels said they “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.
“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.
“We wish Isaiah and his family all the best in the future.”
Papali’i is the first major signing since new head of football Tim Sheens officially returned to the Tigers earlier this month.
“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.
“We firmly believe that his best football is still ahead of him and we’re very excited to see him progress in the next steps of his rugby league career with Wests Tigers.”
A hefty pay-rise has been well-earned by the former Warrior.
Hoping to reinvigorate his career, the 23-year-old took less money to join the Eels this season and wasted no time becoming a core member of their pack.
He was named one of the Dally M Second-Rowers of the Year alongside Penrith’s Viliame Kikau as well as being voted the season’s best recruit in the NRL Fans’ Poll.
“On behalf of all at Wests Tigers, I’d like to say how pleased we are to have secured Isaiah at the club long-term,” Tigers CEO Justin Pascoe said.
“His commitment is a strong reflection of what we’re building on and off the field at Wests Tigers and we’re looking forward to welcoming him at the start of the 2023 season.”
Papali’i, a New Zealand and Samoa representative, is the second big-name Parramatta player leaving the club with Marata Niukore last week announcing he will become a Warrior in 2023.
The Eels still have a host of stars off-contract including captain Clint Gutherson, NSW Origin prop Junior Paulo, second-rower Ryan Matterson and hooker Reed Mahoney, who was recently spotted dining with Bulldogs officials.
The club released a statement on November 5 addressing their ongoing negotiations.
“Over the last six months, we have regularly engaged with all our players and their managers in a private and productive manner, balancing the club’s intent to ensure players are paid fairly and their value is appropriately recognised, whilst ensuring we are assembling our strongest possible roster year on year,” the statement read.
Parramatta recently re-signed front-rower Reagan Campbell-Gillard until the end of 2025.