Tigers recruit Russell Packer has 'utmost respect' for Dragons allowing him to turn his life around after jail term

Russell Packer (R) celebrates with team-mates after scoring a try for the Dragons. He is leaving them to join Wests ...
Mark Kolbe/ Getty Images

Russell Packer (R) celebrates with team-mates after scoring a try for the Dragons. He is leaving them to join Wests Tigers in 2018.

Kiwis prop Russell Packer is leaving the Dragons with a heavy heart after admitting the club helped him rebuild his career after a jail sentence.

Packer confirmed on Tuesday that he will depart for Wests Tigers on a lucrative four-year deal, while his St George Illawarra Dragons team-mate Paul Vaughan extended his stay until the end of 2021.

Having rebuilt his life and career in Wollongong, Packer said the decision to part ways with the Dragons at season's end was a difficult one, but ultimately the right one for his family.

"It's going to be sad to leave the club but in the nature of this game you've got to make those decisions. It's probably a cliche but you do have to put your family first and the ability to provide for them for four years was something that I just couldn't pass up," Packer said.

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It's a long way from the dark days of a 12-month prison sentence following an assault conviction in 2013 and Packer said the Red V will always hold a special place in his heart.

"It means a lot to me under the circumstances of coming to this club and having the ability to, not only rebuild my career as a rugby league player, but also my life with my family," Packer said.

"I've got the utmost respect for everybody involved in this club from [CEO] Peter Doust all the way down. There's too many people to thank.

"There's been a lot of people here who've really helped, not only myself, but my family, my children, for the two and a half years we've been here.

"I always believed in myself and my ability as a rugby league player. Obviously I've been in trouble and I've paid the price but I just believe if you put in the hard work, you'll end up getting the results and I've been able to do that at this club."

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Vaughan has emerged as a genuine contender for a NSW debut with a series of barnstorming performances since shifting from Canberra. The 26-year-old decided his future was at the Red V after less than half a season at the club.

"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."

 - SMH

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