Player swap part of Tigers' ploy to snare Watene-Zelezniak

Wests Tigers are entertaining the prospect of a player swap in their attempt to lure Dallin Watene-Zelezniak away from the Panthers.

Watene-Zelezniak was this week granted permission by Penrith to speak to other clubs after being dropped by coach Ivan Cleary and being made unavailable for Canterbury Cup duties.

The New Zealand international may no longer be wanted at the foot of the mountains but the Eels, Tigers, Cowboys and Bulldogs have all expressed interest in the 23-year-old.

With both the Panthers and Tigers short on salary cap space, the Herald understands part of the Tigers' ploy is to include a player in any potential deal.


It's understood Russell Packer is a leading candidate to be involved in the swap despite being miffed by Cleary's controversial departure at the end of last year.

Elijah Taylor's name has also been raised as a potential trade candidate.

Both players signed long-term deals with Cleary at the helm but have fallen out of favour since coach Michael Maguire took the reins at the start of this season.

There are a handful of other players that Cleary brought to the Tigers who could also feature in a trade.

Packer has not played first grade since the club's humiliating 51-6 loss to Parramatta on opening day at Bankwest Stadium in round six.

Taylor has not featured in Maguire's best 17 since the 30-14 win over the Titans in round seven.

"The one thing about Madge (Maguire) is he is very honest. He doesn’t beat around the bush," Taylor said of his omission earlier this month.

“He has the CV with the premierships. He knows what he is doing and exactly what he wants from his forwards. He was very clear in what I needed to do."

While no deal has been done and Watene-Zelezniak's manager remains overseas, Penrith have already played their hand by declaring the Kiwi captain a free agent despite having 18 months to run on a lucrative contract.

"Earlier this week, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak’s management sought permission from Panthers to speak with other NRL clubs regarding Dallin’s immediate and future playing career," the club said in a statement on Wednesday.

"This permission was granted following discussions by the club’s retention and recruitment committee.

"Out of respect for all parties, the club will be making no further comment at this time."

After scraping past the Eels on Thursday night, recalled winger Josh Mansour weighed in on the situation.

"Dal is my mate, he's a great teammate of mine. I can't help the way he's feeling, but I can support him in any way possible," Mansour said.

"At the end of the day, if that is his decision (to leave), then that's his decision.

"It's on his shoulders and we have to accept his decision. If he's to leave to find happiness, then that's up to him."

While Watene-Zelezniak has fallen out of favour in Penrith, his sub-par form this season has not deterred Tigers and Kiwis coach Maguire.

Even if he does not find a new club before the June 30 deadline, the Herald understands Maguire will pick him for the Kiwis' Test against Tonga on June 22 in Auckland.

If the Tigers are able to get a deal done, Maguire is understood to be considering playing Watene-Zelezniak in the centres, rather than his preferred position of fullback.

The Tigers' chief competitors for Watene-Zelezniak's services, Parramatta, are understood to be eager to play the New Zealand international in the centres, too.

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He was initially considered a fallback at fullback if negotiations with Clint Gutherson fell over but after he put pen to paper, a move to the centres is on the cards.