Ivan Cleary's sad admission about Taylan May amid uncertain NRL future at Panthers

The Panthers coach believes Taylan May could leave the club at the end of the year.

Panthers coach Ivan Cleary believes the club faces a tough task to retain young gun Taylan May after a strong start in 2024 has attracted the attention of rival clubs. May's future beyond this season is unclear, with the 22-year-old the highest-profile Panther off contract at the end of the season.

May missed the entire 2023 NRL campaign following a brutal ACL injury in the Panthers World Club Challenge loss to St Helens but has impressed in the opening two rounds of the new season. Penrith are keen to hold onto the Samoan international and they have opened talks with the youngster over a new deal. But it is clear that May will have a similar decision to make as that of departing star Jarome Luai- money or success.

Panthers coach Ivan Cleary pictured right and Taylan May left
Panthers coach Ivan Cleary believes young gun Taylan May could leave the club at the end of the year as rival clubs can offer the strike centre more than Penrith can. Image: Getty

The salary cap squeeze at the Panthers saw Luai sign a deal from 2025 with the Wests Tigers, with the five-eighth penning a deal worth more than $1million a season. The likes of Spencer Leniu (Roosters), Stephen Crichton (Bulldogs), Jack Cogger (Knights) and Zac Hosking (Raiders) all left following Penrith's 2023 premiership triumph and as the Panthers attempt to secure an unprecedented fourth premiership in a row, they fear this may be their last year with the boom centre.

The cap situation at the Panthers is already stretched by the number of stars on big-money deals, including Nathan Cleary (approximately $1.3 million per year), James Fisher-Harris ($950,000), Edwards ($850,000), Isaah Yeo ($850,000) and Liam Martin ($750,000). Money is not so tight for some other NRL clubs, with the Roosters emerging as frontrunners for his signature as the Tricolours have space in their cap in 2025. with centres Joey Manu, Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii and prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves set to leave at year's end.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 19: Taylan May of Samoa is tackled by Nathan Cleary of Australia during the Rugby League World Cup Final match between Australia and Samoa at Old Trafford on November 19, 2022 in Manchester, England. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)
The Panthers are keen to keep the Samoan international and have opened talks with Taylan May over a new deal. (George Wood via Getty Images)

May has also spoken publicly about wanting to play with his brother Terrell, who is currently contracted to the Roosters but comes off contract at the end of the year. And the pair could be seen as a crucial package deal for the Tri Colours.

While Cleary admits that the Panthers could have a hard time holding on to May, he says they would love for him to stay at the foot of the mountain beyond 2024. Asked on Wednesday if he believed the Panthers can keep May, Cleary said: "I don't know (if he'll stay). I don't know (if I'm confident). We would love Taylan to stay. He knows that."

Taylan May eager to play alongside his brothers

While May says he isn't pushing for a move away from the foot of the mountain, his priority is to play with his family. His brother Terrell's future at the Roosters beyond this year is unclear, while his other brother Tyrone, is in his first year of a two-year deal with Hull KR in the Super League.

Ahead of the 2023 season, May told Fox Sports Australia he was happy at Penrith but ultimately wants more than anything to team up ideally with both his brothers. "Whatever happens, happens. I don’t mind (what happens). If I could then I’d probably (like to stay) but then again, I want to play with my brothers … all of them if I could," he said.


"That’s definitely a goal for me. We’ve definitely spoken about it, and whatever that looks like for us is something that I don’t know what it looks like."

All three May brothers are yet to play together in the NRL or at international level for Samoa. They have all represented the national side at various points but as a result of injuries have never played in the same team.

"Every time I wanted us to play together, (there have been setbacks) like when Tyrone did his hip at the World Cup," May said. "I was keen to play with Terrell that time but he didn’t make it, and now he did make it but Tyrone was in England and I’m injured. It’s a goal for us to play together, but I don’t know what that looks like."

with AAP

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