Rugby League

NRL: Raiders recruit Joseph Tapine arrives in Canberra after split from Newcastle Knights

Canberra Raiders recruit Joseph Tapine is eager to face his old teammates for the first time, but admits he's unsure what reception he will get from the Newcastle supporters.

The month-long contract saga between Tapine, the Raiders and the Knights came to an end on Thursday when the 21-year-old began training with his new club in 37-degree heat in Canberra.

Canberra Raiders recruit Joseph Tapine joined his new teammates for the first time on Thursday after signing a four-year ...
Canberra Raiders recruit Joseph Tapine joined his new teammates for the first time on Thursday after signing a four-year deal. Photo: Rohan Thomson

It coincided with the Raiders cutting ties with star under-20s forward Tevita Pangai to allow him to join the Brisbane Broncos.

The Raiders are confident their "calculated gamble" in signing Tapine, who has played just 20 first-grade games, to a four-year deal will pay dividends.

The Knights granted Tapine an immediate release from his contract earlier this week after he had previously signed with the Raiders until the end of 2019.

Tapine won't have to wait long to see what the mood in Newcastle is like, with the Raiders travelling to Hunter Stadium in round three.

"(I) definitely want to be in that," Tapine said. "(You) always want to play an old club and get to play the boys.

"I'm hoping, no set thing yet, (but) I'll try and get in there. I don't know how (the fans) will feel, but hopefully it's a good one."

Tapine could make his Raiders debut as early as the round one clash against the Penrith Panthers at Canberra Stadium on March 6.

The Raiders have recruited heavily in the past two seasons to completely overhaul their roster.

Only four players remain from the side that played in the final round of the 2013 season before Ricky Stuart took as coach in 2014.

Raiders chief executive Don Furner said the Raiders were confident Tapine would fit in nicely.

"Every time you sign a player it's a risk," Furner said.

"We back our judgment, back his ability and our record will prove to be right.

"In this game, you have to take calculated gambles and that's what we do every time we sign somebody.

"Sometimes you get them right, sometimes you get them wrong, sometimes they get injured, sometimes family matters come in the way, but we think he'll be fine."

Born in Wellington, Tapine joined the Knights as an 18-year-old in 2013.

The Junior Kiwi international made his first-grade debut the following season, playing seven games, before making another 13 appearances in the NRL last year.

The Knights wanted to keep Tapine, but couldn't match the Raiders' offer.

Tapine's manager lodged a complaint with the NRL when the Knights forced him to train away from the main group after he signed with the Raiders, before eventually granting him a release.

"It was about being patient and just waiting," Tapine said.

"I think it was dealt with good and I'm happy with the result.

"It's definitely hard leaving the boys, the friends you make there.

"I'm just looking forward to footy and getting to know the boys and the structure here."

His adjustment has been helped with former Knights teammates Adam Clydsdale and Joey Leilua also at the Raiders.

Tapine has plenty of competition for a spot in the forward pack.

Josh Papalii and Elliott Whitehead played strongly for the Raiders in the second row in last weekend's trial game, while Sia Soliola and Shaun Fensom will also be in the fold.

The front row is an area where the Raiders could need reinforcements, especially with the game to increase in speed this year with the reduction in interchanges.

"I can play in the middle, I don't mind," Tapine said.

"If the coach needs me to play there, I'll play there. If it's back row, it's back row. I'm not fussy."