Bulldogs coach Cameron Ciraldo has declared he will not sign Jarome Luai unless he indicates he wants to leave the Panthers. Luai is off contract at the end of the 2024 season and multiple clubs are expected to offer the Penrith star around $1 million a season to try and lure him away from the foot of the mountain.
But Ciraldo insists he will not "poach" Luai or any Panthers player if they don't indicate they want to leave. Luai previously worked with Ciraldo during his time as an assistant with the Panthers and the Bulldogs coach says they have not put an offer to the triple premiership winner.
"With Jarome, it’s the same as it was with Stephen (Crichton)," Ciraldo told SEN. "If and when he (Luai) decides to leave Penrith, of course, we'd like to chat with any quality player that’s on the open market. But I'm not going to poach guys out of Penrith. I hope they all stay together for the rest of their careers.
"But if they do end up leaving, of course, I'd like to be in the conversation, but up until now, I haven’t heard Jarome is leaving Penrith. And we won't do anything up until that point."
Luai met with Canterbury boss Phil Gould last week and may be tempted to join former Panthers teammates Crichton, Viliame Kikau and Matt Burton at Belmore. The Panthers have stated that they are unable to offer any more money to their five-eighth due to restricted salary cap space but on Monday night it was revealed they may be willing to throw a third year on a new deal to convince him to stay put.
The main suitor for Luai's signature is the Wests Tigers who have reportedly offered him a $4.5 million deal, which equates to around $250,000 per season more than he could earn at the Panthers. Penrith increased their offer to Luai from $800,000 to $850,000 per year and have expressed their desire to keep their star playmaker but insist they will not blow their budget on a single player.
Stephen Crichton reports to Bulldogs pre-season training early
Bulldogs marquee signing Stephen Crichton, who made a move from the Panthers, has arrived at pre-season training some four weeks before he was due to return. "He's not supposed to start until the 8th of January, but he says he wants to come in early and get around the boys, which is just a great sign of what Stephen is going to be able to bring to our program and the leadership and energy that he brings," Ciraldo said.
"For him to come in a month early, the boys are pumped to get him in here. He's probably the best centre in the world and definitely the best defensive centre in the world. I also know what he can do at fullback as well, he’s still only 23.
"The experience that he has, I love that he played five-eighth for Samoa over the break and he would’ve learned a lot from that. He’s a world-class player and we’re excited to get him on board.”
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