John Bateman caught in $2m 'gutting' at Wests Tigers as Isaiah Papali'i signs with Panthers

Some of the Tigers' biggest stars are set to be part of a roster cleanout.

John Bateman is one of numerous high-profile Wests Tigers players set to be shopped around as Benji Marshall looks to 'gut' the NRL side. The Tigers coach is reportedly behind a roster cleanout with Isaiah Papali’i the first man to make way.

The Kiwi international signed with the Panthers on Thursday, less than 24 hours after being told that he could get out of his three-year contract a year early. The 25-year-old was contracted until the end of 2025 on a deal reportedly worth $650,000 per year.

According to reports, Papali’i is the first of many expected to make way in the coming months. News Corp's Michael Carayannis told NRL 360 that the Tigers are looking to move on Jayden Sullivan, Brent Naden, Charlie Staines and Bateman to free up salary cap space.

Some of the Tigers' biggest stars are set to be make way as part of a roster clean out. Image: Getty
Some of the Tigers' biggest stars are set to be make way as part of a roster cleanout. Image: Getty

NRL commentator Andrew Voss said the news of a mass exodus has been spreading like wildfire. "The mail has taken off like a wildfire," Voss said on SEN radio. "Shane Richardson, we’re told, is over in the UK, looking to recruit from there, but he’s not just recruiting. He seems to be offloading. Because the story about John Bateman, seriously my mates in the UK have written he’s coming home. He’s coming back to Super League. They’re running stories already."

Tigers CEO Shane Richardson is currently overseas looking to shop even more of their players to Super League clubs as part of a major roster overhaul. He is also reportedly looking at bringing some of England's top talent to the Tigers.

"This is purely about getting our salary cap in better shape, and it's not a simple thing to do," Richardson said. "Effective salary-cap management is so important in this business, and it's a puzzle you simply must get right if you want to be a successful NRL club." If Bateman and Sullivan join Papali’i in heading out the door, the Tigers will free up around $2 million per year in cap space for the club to bolster its ranks.

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 16: Benji Marshall, new head coach of the Wests Tigers looks on during the NSW Cup ahead of the round two NRL match between Canberra Raiders and Wests Tigers at GIO Stadium, on March 16, 2024, in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by Jenny Evans/Getty Images)
Benji Marshall is reportedly behind a mass exodus at the Tigers.

Papali'i will link up with the Panthers on a three-year deal in 2025 after not setting the world alight at the Tigers. He left Parramatta at the end of 2022 but has failed to recapture the same level of form since arriving at Concord.

His move to Penrith has effectively ended the Panthers' pursuit of Sydney Roosters forward Angus Crichton. The 25-year-old can play in the middle or an edge and is seen as somewhat of a replacement for James Fisher-Harris, who has agreed to move to the Warriors next season.

"We're thrilled to have secured Isaiah's services for the next three seasons," Panthers Rugby League CEO Matt Cameron said. "Not only does Isaiah bring a wealth of experience and leadership capabilities to our club, but he's also a world-class forward who has proven himself at the highest level."