Josh Papalli is leaving the Canberra Raiders for the Parramatta Eels. Photo: Jeffrey Chan
The Canberra Raiders have lost the battle to retain Josh Papalii, with reports the hard-hitting forward has accepted a lucrative offer with the Parramatta Eels.
Channel Nine news reported on Friday night that the Eels had been successful with their pursuit of the 20-year-old enforcer.
The Eels had reportedly tabled a deal worth at least $1 million to lure Papalii away from the Raiders.
The Raiders confirmed on Friday night that Papalii had signed a contract with the Eels.
Papalii’s departure from the Raiders at the end of this season would be a major blow to the Green Machine.
The Raiders recruited Papalii from Brisbane through their association with Souths Logan and relocated him to play in their SG Ball (under-18) team.
He made his first-grade debut in 2011, becoming a regular fixture in the starting side.
His aggressive play and bone-crunching hits came to prominence when he did a superb job in shutting down NSW captain Paul Gallen in last year’s finals series.
The New Zealand-born Papalii was at the centre of a tug-of-war over his international eligibility and has elected to make himself available for Queensland.
The Raiders had hoped Papalii’s relationship with Maroons coach and Raiders great Mal Meninga would have played a part in him remaining in Canberra, but that appears not to be the case.
Papalii’s exit will free up room in the salary cap for the Raiders to retain several of their off-contract stars.
Sam Williams, Jarrod Croker, Brett White, Joel Thompson and Matt McIlwrick are among the players about to hit the open market.