Regional | Rugby league

Watene-Zelezniak set to leave Penrith

Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (Waikato-Tainui) has been given permission to negotiate with other NRL clubs, meaning an imminent move will be likely for the Kiwis and Panthers fullback.

Penrith, who are under massive salary cap pressure, have been attempting to move players like Watene-Zelezniak to free up some room. They currently have 13 players under contract for at least another two years, with some of those being their highest paid players.

However, Watene-Zelezniak isn’t entirely getting shown the door. The Panthers have been abysmal this season, with their 30-10 loss to the Warriors over the weekend the latest failure that’s seen them rooted to the bottom of the table. It’s highly likely Watene-Zelezniak himself wants out of a club clearly in turmoil, so the decision is most probably mutual.

The two most likely candidates to pick up his services right now would be the North Queensland Cowboys or Parramatta Eels, who both have cap room for Watene-Zelezniak’s rumoured asking price of around AUD $700,000 a season.

The 23-year-old Watene-Zelezniak is of Māori, Tongan and Polish descent and was born in Hamilton. He has lived in Sydney since he was five years old, and after debuting in 2013 has played over 100 NRL games for the Panthers. He captained the Kiwis last season on their tour of England.

Watene-Zelezniak is the great-grandson of former New Zealand rugby league player and politician Steve Watene, who was the first Māori to captain the Kiwis.