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Ivan Cleary's big call on keeping Dylan Edwards and Jarome Luai at Penrith

The premiership winning stars are the centre of speculation over their contracts.

Jarome Luai smiling and Dylan Edwards speaking after the grand final.

Penrith coach Ivan Cleary has claimed the club can keep both Jarome Luai and Dylan Edwards after speculation both players wouldn't fit under the salary cap with bolstered contacts beyond 2024. Having won back-to-back premierships, Penrith's star players are expected to seek a pay-rise when contacts expire.

Edwards' four-try masterclass against Manly last week strengthened his representative credentials and potential to earn a pay-rise on the open market. In career-best form, the fullback comes off contract at the end of next season, the same time as State of Origin five-eighth Luai.

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There has been plenty of speculation that Penrith won't be able to hold onto both stars with contract talks expected to start soon before other clubs can negotiate with the players from 1 November. Nathan Cleary is 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.

Although when Cleary was about whether he was confident both will remain at the club beyond their current contract, he was adamant. "Very," the coach said.

"Those two guys are integral parts of our team, have been for a long time. I'd certainly like to think that they would be moving forward."

Penrith lost Viliame Kikau, Api Koroisau, Matt Burton and Kurt Capewell before the 2023 season due to the premiership winning stars seeking a higher salary at other clubs. Despite this, Penrith stars Isaah Yeo, Nathan Cleary, Brian To'o, James Fisher-Harris and Moses Leota have all penned long-term deals with the club as they look to consolidate their future.

And Cleary knows the pain of watching players go, but have pinpointed the success of players coming through the junior ranks as a big factor in staying at the club. "The guys that have stayed, that's definitely been a part of the reason," Cleary said.

"They all value the camaraderie and the team that we have here, their families are settled and that kind of thing. That all comes into it."

Ivan Cleary backs Dylan Edwards to thrive

Edwards has long been a favourite of Cleary's and while the coach conceded he could bank a bigger pay-cheque with a rival he can't fathom the fullback leaving. "I don't see him in any jersey other than a Panthers one," he said.

"He suits us really well. We're obviously going to do our best to keep him."

Edwards hasn't been able to break into representative football due to James Tedesco's status as NSW State of Origin and Australian captain. The fullback has watched Luai, Cleary, To'o, Yeo and Liam Martin have all become Origin staples amid their premiership success.

Dylan Edwards grounds the ball for a try.
Dylan Edwards (pictured) is at the centre of contract talks at the Panthers with his deal expiring after 2024. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images) (Cameron Spencer via Getty Images)

While Edwards has focused on his football at Penrith, Cleary believes the fullback will get a chance to shine sooner or later. "Something like that is going to happen for him one day, I reckon, if he just keeps on being who he is and playing the way he does each week," he said.

"He could definitely handle that level. His game would be perfectly suited to it. He's behind a pretty good one (Tedesco) there."

with AAP

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