Player transfer market Wests Tigers ready to pounce as Isaiah Papali’i rejects Parramatta Eels offer

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However club officials believe Papali’i, the reigning Dally M back-rower of the year, could be better value at around $550,000-$600,000 a year to play the same position.

Papali’i was a revelation for the Eels after joining the club from the Warriors in 2021, pushing his way into the starting side following the lifeline handed to him by coach Brad Arthur.

Isaiah Papali’i celebrates after scoring a try in Canberra.

Isaiah Papali’i celebrates after scoring a try in Canberra.Credit:Getty

He scored seven tries and averaged 150 metres per game in a breakout year, finishing the season with 109 tackle breaks and 30 offloads from 25 games played. He also finished the year third in the NRL for post-contact metres.

The Eels have a number of players who will hit the open market in a couple of days, with skipper Clint Gutherson, hooker Reed Mahoney and props Junior Paulo and Reagan Campbell-Gillard all free to negotiate with other clubs for 2023.

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The other unknown is the future of Ryan Matterson, who appears to be on the outer at the club despite joining the Eels from the Tigers two years ago. Matterson recently took up an option in his favour to remain at the Eels in 2022.

The Tigers themselves are in the middle of negotiations with Canberra hooker Josh Hodgson. Hodgson is on a deal worth $900,000 for next year, however a six per cent reduction in the salary cap due to the impact of COVID-19 means he is owed around $850,000 in 2022.

The Wests Tigers have indicated they are willing to pay $500,000 of his salary, plus another year on top. The Raiders, however, will only chip in $100,000 for next year leaving the two parties $250,000 apart.

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