Wests Tigers have landed their biggest coup of the Michael Maguire era, securing Apisai Koroisau on a two-year NRL deal.
Koroisau agreed to terms with the joint-venture club on Friday, knocking back interest from the Dolphins to put pen to paper with the Tigers.
The premiership-winning hooker will stay with Penrith for the 2022 season, before arriving at the Tigers for 2023, AAP has been told.
Both sides will have a mutual option for the 2025 season when Koroisau will be 32.
It comes after the Tigers had flirted with the idea of moving Josh Hodgson north from Canberra, before negotiations with the Raiders stalled.
But in Koroisau they have bona fide premiership winner with State of Origin experience, likely to play a key role in the club's next chapter with Tim Sheens in charge of football.
He has also previously played under Maguire at South Sydney, coming into their 2014 grand final winning side for Issac Luke.
The Tigers have also signed Isaiah Papali'i for 2023, while also welcoming Jackson Hastings and Tyrone Peachey to Concord for next year.
"We're very pleased to have secured Apisai from the start of the 2023 season," Sheens said.
"He not only adds a further level of experience in a key position of the spine, but he has shown himself to be successful alongside head coach Michael Maguire previously in his career.
"It is always a big positive to sign a player with international and State of Origin experience, and what Apisai has achieved at both club and representative level will be a great addition to what we are building here."
Koroisau's signature could create an eventual headache at No.9.
The Tigers extended Jacob Liddle until the end of 2023 earlier this year, while up-and-coming hooker Jake Simpkin is on their books until the 2024 season.
Koroisau is the latest member of Penrith's premiership-winning side to sign elsewhere after the grand final, following Paul Momirovski and Viliame Kikau.
Like the Kikau situation, it's believed that the Panthers did not seriously enter the bidding war given the rising stocks of several of their grand final winners.
The club also have Mitch Kenny coming off contact at the end of next year, who will now likely be their long-term No.9.
Koroisau's decision makes him the latest NRL star to reject advances from the Dolphins, the NRL's newest franchise.
It also leaves them and other clubs in a hole in their search for a hooker.
Brandon Smith, Reed Mahoney and Koroisau were the three best dummy-halves on the market, with the trio having each decided their futures in the past fortnight.
Blayke Brailey and Wade Egan are among other hookers to have re-signed with their respective clubs this week.
Hodgson, Kenny, Manase Fainu Freddy Lussick and Jake Turpin are among the remaining hookers available to clubs, while Sam Verrills could make a move away from the Sydney Roosters with Smith's 2023 arrival.
Australian Associated Press
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