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'It was close': Turuva opens up on contract call

Jasper Bruce -

Sunia Turuva admits it was a close call choosing between Wests Tigers and St George Illawarra for 2025, but says improvements under Benji Marshall sealed his move to Concord.

With his Penrith deal expiring at the end of 2024 and the Panthers reluctant to match lucrative rival offers, last year's Dally M rookie of the year was one of the hottest properties on the open market earlier this season.

Turuva, 21, was linked with a move to Shane Flanagan's Dragons for weeks before the Tigers swooped in late last month with a three-year deal.

The signing is another boon for the Tigers in their ongoing rebuild under coach Marshall and chief executive Shane Richardson, who have also lured Turuva's Penrith teammate Jarome Luai for 2025.

But Turuva said little separated the Dragons and Tigers as he weighed up his options.

Both clubs had put three-year deals on the table, and both find themselves in a similar situation this season, having shown progress under first-year coaches following a lengthy spell out of the finals.

"It was close," Turuva said of his contract call.

"All eyes were on Dragons and I had a few chats with them. If it wasn't Tigers it would be Dragons."

Panthers coach Ivan Cleary rested Turuva from the round-eight away clash against North Queensland as the player struggled to come to a decision.

Turuva conceded he would probably still be at the negotiation table if not for Cleary's call.

"Big ups to 'Ive' for letting me have that week off to deal with that stuff," he said.

"It would have kept dragging on if he didn't, I'd still be in the decision mode now."

In the end, Turuva bought into the Tigers' new direction.

The back-to-back wooden spooners are still struggling for spark in their attack, but the emergence of rookie playmaker Lachlan Galvin and wins over Cronulla and Parramatta have provided glimpses of a brighter future.

Turuva saw the side's progress up close in the Panthers' 22-6 win in round seven.

"The scoreboard might not have shown it but they made us fight for it," Turuva said.

"Results haven't been going their way but they've been hanging in there for 80 minutes, when in previous years they've given up.

"I can definitely see, from the outside looking in, that they're heading in the right direction.

"That's something that encouraged me to go with them."

Jasper Bruce - AAP

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