Crichton prepares to leave NRL's Panthers

Stephen Crichton is poised to become the NRL's next star fullback after rejecting Penrith's offer of a renewed contract extension.

The Panthers announced on Monday the Samoan international, who has been heavily linked with a switch to Canterbury, would leave after the 2023 season.

Best known as a centre or wing, Crichton has made no secret of his desire to become a fullback but his path at Penrith appears blocked with the club committed to Clive Churchill Medal winner Dylan Edwards.

The 22-year-old Crichton has become a key cog in Penrith's recent success, winning the last two premierships and reaching the grand final in 2020.

Penrith say they first offered him a new deal in May last year, only to put talks on hold due to the impasse in salary cap and CBA negotiations.

In the time since, the club has re-signed a bevvy of other highly-rated players including Brian To'o, Liam Martin and Izack Tago, placing a squeeze on their salary cap.

"Although Panthers is disappointed by the outcome, the club respects Stephen's decision, and understands the situation is exacerbated by salary cap pressure based on the club's recent success," Panthers Rugby League CEO Matt Cameron said.

"The club thanks Stephen for his efforts and is looking forward to seeing him represent the Panthers for the remainder of the 2023 NRL season."

Crichton was part of Samoa's recent run to the Rugby League World Cup final and has made a habit of delivering in the big moments for club and country.

His intercept try sealed Penrith's 2021 grand final win and a golden-point extra-time field goal helped Samoa upset England in last year's World Cup semi-finals.

"It was the hardest decision to make, but now my full focus is on the 2023 season and finishing my time at Panthers as strong as I can," Crichton said.

"It's going to be tough to leave my teammates, but we will have our chance to make more memories this year. I know my friendships at Panthers won't finish here but will last forever."