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Parramatta centre Will Penisini is in Wallabies coach Eddie Jones’ long-term sights but the rising star says his phone is on “do not disturb” mode when it comes to fielding questions about switching codes.
The Eels star came through the schoolboy ranks playing rugby alongside Roosters prodigy Joseph Suaalii at The King’s School in Parramatta and has also made a name for himself in the NRL in a short space of time.
After making his debut with five games in 2021, he played all 28 matches for Parramatta last year, scoring 10 tries in their run to the Grand Final.
Due to his rugby pedigree, the 20-year-old Tongan international is one of several NRL players that Jones would love to get into the Wallabies system in the lead-up to hosting the British & Lions tour in 2025 and the World Cup two years later.
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Penisini, however, re-signed with the Eels in January until the end of 2025 and he told reporters on Wednesday in the lead-up to the Easter Monday clash with the Tigers that he wouldn’t be changing his stripes any time soon.
“I’m not looking at rugby at the moment. Obviously, I have just signed a contract at the start of this year, so it leaves me here for another two or three years, and I love what this club is building,” Penisini said.
“I enjoyed my time playing it (union) back in school, and yeah, it’s a great game.
“If they (the Wallabies) do take players, good on them. If you’re talented to play both, why not?”
Bateman keen for Wighton to join Tigers
John Bateman has rolled out the red carpet to Jack Wighton, relishing the prospect of linking with his former Canberra teammate at the Wests Tigers.
Wighton last week indicated his desire to test his value away from Canberra, where he has so far spent the entirety of his NRL career.
The Raiders have reportedly tabled a deal worth north of $1 million per season in a bid to retain the 10-cap Australia international.
Tigers coach Tim Sheens played down links with his club last week but the joint-venture remains one of the few sides able to match Wighton’s salary demands.
The Tigers have made no secret of their desire to bring in an experienced playmaker, having made attempts to recruit Mitchell Moses, Cameron Munster and Mitchell Pearce to the club over the last 12 months.
Bateman stressed he had not spoken to Wighton about a potential move but said he would welcome the five-eighth’s arrival at Concord.
“He’s a very good player who’s gone on to play for NSW and won the World Cup last year,” Bateman said.
“He’s a great bloke and if he wants to come here, he can feel free to come here.
“The better players – you’d take them in your squad.
“Jack’s 30 years old now so this will probably be the biggest (decision) in his career.”
Bateman conceded his start to life at the Tigers, who are 0-5 heading into Easter Monday’s meeting with Parramatta, had been testing.
The English forward has batted back suggestions he is carrying an injury and says he has no issue dealing with the scrutiny that has engulfed the struggling NRL club.
“I suppose it comes with the territory of what the club’s about,” he said.
“It’s a big club and you realise that once you’re involved.
“It’s about us going out and performing on the field and we haven’t done that so we probably deserve (the scrutiny).”
Teammates say Jack worth million per season
Jack Wighton is poised to join the NRL’s million-dollar club should he pen a new deal with Canberra, and his teammates maintain he’d be worth every penny.
Wighton shocked many when he declined a player option for 2024 to test the open market, but the Raiders have moved quickly to try and lock up their best player by reportedly offering him a four-year contract worth $4.4 million.
He’s been linked with a move to Queensland with Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett suggesting he’d pay Wighton more than $1 million per season if they think he’s the right fit.
Jamal Fogarty pointed to his halves partner’s glowing resume as evidence Wighton belonged in the same seven-figure club that includes Nathan Cleary, Tom Trbojevic, Kalyn Ponga and James Tedesco.
“He’s done everything in the game – Dally M and Clive Churchill, he’s won a World Cup, he’s won Origins, the only thing he hasn’t won is a premiership,” Fogarty said.
“Whatever the club’s willing to pay him then I think he’s entitled to it.
“We’ve got a great friendship off the field here and they’ve made us so comfortable down here, so whatever Jack and his family decide we’re always there to support them no matter what.”
Raiders captain Elliott Whitehead agreed Wighton had “definitely” earned the monster pay packet, but said there hadn’t been much chat among the players about the star’s contract status.
“He’s been massive for this team. He’s done everything in the game so deserves everything he gets,” he said.
“I hope he does stay here because he’s a massive part of the club and the organisation here and what he brings to the team is massive, but it’s down to him and his family at the end of the day.”