‘On do not disturb’: Penisini locked in at Eels, but rugby still of interest

If Rugby Australia knocked on Will Penisini’s door with a $1.6 million offer like the one his best mate Joseph Suaalii has signed, the Parramatta centre concedes it would “be very hard to say no”.

But the 20-year-old Eel, who recently inked a new deal until the end of 2025, said he is “very happy at the moment” playing for the blue and gold.

“I’m not looking at rugby at the moment. Obviously, I have just signed a contract at the start of this year, so it leaves me here for another two or three years, and I love what this club is building,” Penisini said.

Asked whether he had received a call about a potential code-switch, Penisini joked his phone was on “do not disturb”.

Penisini, who played First XV rugby with Suaalii at Sydney’s King’s School, was suggested to have been on Eddie Jones’ NRL hit list before re-signing with Parramatta.

“Obviously, I enjoyed my time playing it [rugby] back in school, and yeah, it’s a great game,” he said.

Paramatta centre Will Penisini is signed to the club until 2025.Credit:Getty

According to Penisini, fears rugby is going to steal the talent from the NRL aren’t valid.

“You see young kids coming out each year. Rugby league has got unlimited talent,” Penisini said.

“Everyone’s growing up, and all the younger boys are coming through anyway, so if they do take players, good on them. If you’re talented [enough] to play both, why not?”

The timing of his new deal with Parramatta would still give him more than 18 months to earn a Wallabies jumper in time for the 2027 World Cup should he decide to switch to the 15-man code once his Eels deal expires.

But Penisini said he was focused on league, starting with helping his team get their second win of the season when they play the Wests Tigers at Olympic Park on Easter Monday.

Tim Sheens’ Tigers are yet to win a game in 2023, but in an Easter upset last year, they beat the Eels with a field goal on the siren to win 21-20.

The return of forward Shaun Lane, who missed the first five weeks of the season after suffering a broken jaw, is likely to inject some much-needed spirit into last year’s grand finalists.

“I just try and bring a cool head, I think that’s what most people say about me is that I am pretty relaxed and calm out there,” Lane said.

“I just try and give direction to people… I see myself as an unofficial coach of the boys on the field.

“We’ve been confident every game this year, we still know that we have got what it takes to succeed, and there’s only been a few things that have stopped us from doing it. We feel good that we can turn things around.”

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