KIWI international Russell Packer has signed a four-year deal to join Wests Tigers, it was announced on Tuesday.
The move comes less than two years after Packer was offered an NRL lifeline by St George Illawarra, after being released from jail.
Packer spent 12 months in prison for an assault and had been threatened with deportation, then denied a return to playing NRL in 2015, finally making his debut last season.
However, the Dragons were under significant salary cap pressure, after signing Brisbane playmaker Ben Hunt next season, as well as retaining captain Gareth Widdop.
The Tigers came to Packer with a lucrative offer worth about $2 million for four years, the club cashed up after Mitchell Moses, James Tedesco and Aaron Woods announced they would leave at the end of the year.
"Russell has been one of the standout front-rowers in the NRL this season,” Tigers coach Ivan Cleary said.
“He’s a no-nonsense front rower, he really knows what his job is and he delivers and I think he’s only going to get better.
“I think he’s going to have a very strong leadership role here.
“He’s got a great story, a story of hard knocks and coming out the other side, and that will resonate with lots of the boys here.
“He’s very keen to help us regrow what we have here at Wests Tigers, and they’re the sort of guys we want on board.”
However, an hour after the Tigers announced Packer’s exit, the Dragons revealed teammate Paul Vaughan will stay in Wollongong until at least 2021.
Vaughan – who is squarely in NSW State of Origin contention – is arguably the signing of the season, after moving to from Canberra.
"At the start of the season I wanted to start afresh and prove myself all over again. That was one of the biggest things I needed to do," Vaughan said.
“I think I'm halfway to doing that – I just need to keep playing consistent football.
“I've always said I wanted to stay here for as long as I can so with this deal I won't be off-contract again until I'm in my 30s.”