Rumoured to be on the move from the Penrith Panthers for the past few weeks, Kiwis captain Dallin Watene-Zelezniak has found a new home.

The 23-year-old outside back has joined the struggling Canterbury Bulldogs on an 18-month contract effectively immediately.

The Bulldogs beat out rival clubs in the North Queensland Cowboys and Wests Tigers for the young star's signature. NRL.com reports the Tigers were desperate to sign Watene-Zelezniak but were unable to move a player on to make room in the salary cap for his services.

While still just 23-years-old, Watene-Zelezniak is now in his fifth year in the NRL - making his debut in 2014. In 106 appearances for the Panthers he scored 41 tries.

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Bulldogs chief executive Andrew Hill said he was delighted with the signing.

"The acquisition of Dallin is fantastic news for the club and the vision we have going forward.

"Not only is Dallin a great player but he is a quality person and a leader. As the current Kiwi captain he provides us with both class and proven ability and he will be a major addition to our backline.

"On the back of Joe Stimson from the Storm agreeing to terms last week, Dallin's signing is another significant step in the right direction for the club and we welcome Dallin and his family to Belmore and look forward to our members and fans getting the chance to watch him play."

The Panthers granted Watene-Zelezniak an immediate release from his contract earlier in the week to allow him to pursue the opportunity with the Bulldogs. He last played for the club in their 30-10 loss to the Warriors in round 10.

Despite being their reigning Kiwis captain, coach Michael Maguire said he wasn't a certainty to be named in the squad to meet Tonga on June 22 at Mt Smart Stadium.

With the test at Mt Smart two weeks away, Maguire and his selectors will need to assess if Watene-Zelezniak is mentally and physically ready.

Ideally, Maguire would like to find a place for his leader but will be reluctant to expose him to the kind of pressure he may not be ready for.

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"I wouldn't say I'm concerned, but we have to be aware of where he is at when we are going into this test match," Maguire said. "He has obviously been going through a few challenges himself, which I know Dallin will come out of. He is a remarkable young man. I know if everything around him is in a good place, then his football is going to be in a good place."