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Tigers lose Tuilagi too: Manly bolster stock with boom second-rower

March 17, 2022

Tigers lose Tuilagi too: Manly bolster stock with boom second-rower

Manly have landed their man. Kelma Tuilagi, who emerged as a boom second-rower for the Tigers last season, will join Lucian Leilua in heading out the Tigers door, though the Samoan star’s drive is a little shorter.

Tuilagi will join the Manly Sea Eagles on a three-year deal starting from next season. The Sporting Base understands he picked Des Hasler’s glittering outfit over the Tigers due to one key difference; his current club only tabled him a two-season contract that would have seen him playing at Concord through to 2024.

The 23-year-old reportedly prefers the stability the Sea Eagles offered.

The departing Tiger earned his spot in the starting side on the weekend, running 109 metres and making 22 tackles in 70 minutes against the Melbourne Storm. He is all odds to retain his starting jumper over Luke Garner again this week.

This isn’t the first time Tuilagi has made a major call to shuffle NRL clubs either. The young star started with the Storm during his development years, but heavy traffic in the forwards in the shape of veterans like Kenny Bromwich, Felise Kaufusi and Dale Finucane made it tricky for Kelma to see a future in the team.

“Melbourne picked me up, I played some edge, some middle,” Tuilagi said. “I was grateful I started off with the Storm because they are a pretty good team. But coming to the Tigers was the start of me.”

It’s not an exact swap, but Manly picking up Tuilagi fills the impending gap soon be left by imposing forward Marty Taupau. The Sea Eagles star is heading north — just like Leilua — to join the Cowboys from 2023.

Taupau may move mid-season, but that won’t change Tuilagi’s new plans.

The Tigers have already got a like-for-like move locked in too. Wests poached Isaiah Papali’i from close-city rivals the Eels earlier this year, and the breakout star of last season will link up at Concord heading into the next NRL campaign. He is expected to be a major motor for Michael Maguire’s rebuild project in the new year.

Another huge buy for Wests is Panthers rake Apisai Koroisau. The title-winning hooker is set to join at the same time as Papali’i, and will be wearing black and orange until at least the 2025 NRL season.

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