Leading NRL reporters have clashed over whether the Panthers will be able to keep both Dylan Edwards and Jarome Luai, with both expected to draw $1 million per season in their next deals. The fullback and five-eighth are both under contract until the end of 2024, and will undoubtedly be set for big upgrades after helping the Panthers win back-to-back premierships.
But with Nathan Cleary already on $1 million-plus and fellow co-captain Isaah Yeo recently re-signing long-term, there are doubts the club will be able to keep both Edwards and Luai. The back-to-back premiers have already been forced to part ways with Api Koroisau and Viliame Kikau due to salary cap space, while Stephen Crichton is also set to join the Bulldogs in 2024.
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It was thought the departures would free up ample space in the cap, but there are doubts that Luai and Edwards will both be Panthers in 2025. Dan Ginnane said on NRL 360 on Wednesday night: “The Panthers are in an interesting situation because you would think after losing the likes of Kikau, Koroisau and Crichton next year that maybe their salary cap issues had been dealt with.
“But they may be forced into a decision soon at the end of 2024. Dylan Edwards and Jarome Luai’s contracts are up and you can only imagine they are going to demand very big dollars, particularly Edwards. Edwards is on a lot less now than what he could get on his next deal.”
James Hooper said: “I reckon they might struggle (to keep both). You think about it, they have got Isaah Yeo, James Fisher-Harris, Moses Leota all locked up long-term on reasonable money. They are not going to have the money to be able to pay both of them a million dollars a season.”
However Paul Kent disagreed, saying he wouldn't be surprised if the Panthers end up with three players on $1 million per season. “Both of them are ($1 million players) and Luai is an Origin calibre player,” Kent said.
“They have already got their million-dollar player in Nathan Cleary. These two guys - if one is on a million, one won’t be on much less.
“It’s not going to be a big problem. The million-dollar player - every club has got one just about now - and it won’t be long until every club has got two and then soon after that three.”
Can the Panthers keep Dylan Edwards and Jarome Luai?
Fellow panellist Michael Carayannis predicted both players would draw huge offers from rival clubs that the Panthers might not be able to match. “I think the rival offers from other clubs are going to be huge,” Carayannis said.
“I don’t think a million will be enough. Look at what Mitchell Moses got offered by the Tigers and what Jack Wighton is going to get offered from the Dolphins and the Raiders. Jarome Luai is going to be earning in excess of a million dollars on the open market and there would be a club that would give Dylan Edwards a million dollars as well.”
However Kent believes changes to the salary cap will work in Penrith's favour. “I think clubs are getting to that stage where they can afford to carry more than one (million-dollar player),” Kent said. “And in some instances more than two. The salary cap went up 24 per cent this year, so it has been significant.”
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