The contract saga surrounding Dallin Watene-Zelezniak is finally over after the Canterbury Bulldogs landed the signature of the New Zealand captain on Sunday morning.
What began with interest from the Eels, and led to discussions with the Wests Tigers and North Queensland Cowboys, has finished with the 23-year-old inking an 18 month contract with the Bulldogs.
As reported by NRL.com on Friday night, the Bulldogs and Tigers were the front-runners for his services.
However the Tigers, who were in the best position to sign him given the relationship with New Zealand coach Michael Maguire, were unable to move a player on in time to secure his signature.
Watene-Zelezniak was released by the Panthers on Friday night after he was dropped from the club’s NRL team three weeks ago.
A huge attraction to the Bulldogs was his existing relationship with Reimis Smith, the son of Watene-Zelezniak’s manager Tyran Smith, and fellow Mormon Will Hopoate – who is also managed by Tyran Smith.
The Cowboys were appealing, however Watene-Zelezniak was reluctant to relocate with his family given he has two young kids.
It’s understood Watene-Zelezniak informed Maguire he wouldn’t be joining the Tigers on Saturday, before agreeing to terms with the Bulldogs later that night.
Watene-Zelezniak’s release from the Panthers opens up a spot on the club’s roster, which as revealed by NRL.com on Saturday, could be filled by Tyrone Peachey.
"The acquisition of Dallin is fantastic news for the club and the vision we have going forward," Bulldogs CEO Andrew Hill said.
"Not only is Dallin a great player but he is a quality person and a leader. As the current Kiwi captain he provides us with both class and proven ability and he will be a major addition to our back line.
"On the back of Joe Stimson from the Storm agreeing to terms last week, Dallin’s signing is another significant step in the right direction for the club and we welcome Dallin and his family to Belmore and look forward to our members and fans getting the chance to watch him play."