Waqa Blake will have one familiar face waiting for him – Will Smith - when he turns up for Parramatta training next week.
The 24-year-old was released by the Panthers on Wednesday and had his Eels contract registered by the NRL on Thursday. He is signed with the Blue & Gold until the end of the 2023 season.
But the Eels squad are currently in Darwin to play the Raiders at TIO Stadium on Saturday night, so Blake is no chance of a quick change-of-jersey until round 17 at least – the Eels have a bye in round 16.
However, Smith will be waiting with a welcoming smile.
"We both started at Penrith in grade together," Smith told NRL.com in Darwin.
"He's a really good bloke and I'm good friends with him. I don't know exactly where they're going to play him but it doesn't matter.
"The size of him and his speed means he's a great asset for any team."
Match: Eels v Raiders
Round 15 -
Venue: TIO Stadium, Darwin
Smith made his debut in 2014 with the Panthers, playing 21 games over the next three seasons before shifting to the Eels in 2017.
Blake made his NRL debut in 2015 at Penrith after being a member of the club’s premiership-winning NYC side in 2013 and NSW Cup side in 2014.
He played 88 NRL games, and a few with Smith, in his four-and-half years with Penrith.
Blake is the second back to leave the Panthers den in three weeks after Dallin Watene-Zelezniak was given a release and joined the Bulldogs.