Penrith veteran Trent Merrin has hit out at speculation of disharmony at the NRL club, declaring the current squad as among the "tightest" he's seen in his career.
The major defections of local juniors Matt Moylan and Bryce Cartwright over the summer have sparked rumours of a disconnect between the playing squad and coaching staff.
Both Moylan and Cartwright were granted releases 12 months into five-year deals.
The versatile Tyrone Peachey is also expected to sign a long-term deal to join Cartwright on the Gold Coast next year, while the long-term future of gun halfback Nathan Cleary is clouded.
However Merrin insisted Panthers officials were forced to make tough calls on players that appeared to be on a different path to the club.
"We're a tight group of boys all heading in the right direction and when a few players don't feel like they're heading in that same direction, then the club needs to make a decision," Merrin said.
"That decision was made on both the player's perspective and club's perspective.
"Obviously the club did what they thought was the best thing for the club. Those players that have left was for what was best for their careers."
The big-name manoeuvrings have raised questions about whether the players continue to be behind coach Anthony Griffin, who has led the club to two straight finals appearances.
However Merrin said the playing group are among the closest he had seen in his eight years in the game, which has included Kangaroos and NSW State of Origin camps.
"There's no issues within the group, the fans should be happy with that. It's one of the tightest groups I've been a part of," he said.
"Every club has their own individual issues and get on top of them their own ways and that's what has happened at our club.
"You ask any one of these players here and they've got full belief and respect of the staff and officials we have at this club to make the right decisions moving forward.
"When those decisions were made obviously you have a friendship base at the club and they'll never be lost. But at the end of the day the club and player has to do what's best for them."
Penrith will get a chance to bring the focus back to their on-field results when they host the Sydney Roosters in a trial on Saturday.
Griffin has named a strong squad featuring major signing James Maloney however skipper Peter Wallace, Josh Mansour and Reagan Campbell-Gillard have been rested.