Jarome Luai has dropped a massive indication that he might be leaving the Panthers after a telling social media move on Thursday. The three-time premiership winner posted an anime-style image of himself on Instagram with the caption "know your worth", accompanying the post with the 50 Cent song 'Hustler’s Ambition' from the film 'Get Rich Or Die Tryin’.
The fact that the five-eighth made three references to money could be bad news for the Panthers, who can reportedly only offer Luai a new two-year deal worth $850,000 per season due to salary cap pressures. Luai is officially a free agent as of November 1 and is free to negotiate with rival clubs for the 2025 season.
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He is still under contract at Penrith for 2024, but is facing a big pay cut if he wants to stay at the club beyond that. Rival clubs will be able to offer Luai as much as $1.1 million per season, meaning he will have to decide between success and familiarity, or money.
Discussing the situation on Wednesday, Panthers coach Ivan Cleary made some extraordinary comments that throwing big money at Luai would be a risk. Cleary pointed out that Luai has never been the chief playmaker at Penrith and might not warrant more than $1 million per season.
"I think that's that's the biggest thing at play here," Cleary said. "If any club wants to (offer) the money, we're talking, probably the money that he may consider leaving (for), it would have to be for that kind of role.
"Is he ready for that? That's a question mark. Could he do it? I'm sure he can do it. Has he done it? No, he hasn't. He's done a little bit with Samoa of course at last year's World Cup.
"But generally speaking, in this team he's had his role to play. So it would be slightly different. So I guess that's a risk that everyone would have to take."
Will Jarome Luai choose money or success?
Cleary pointed out that multiple players have left the Panthers in recent years and haven't experienced anything close to the same success. But the coach conceded "money talks".
"I'm sure he would (take that into account)," Cleary said. "We want to make it really clear we want him to stay. I'm pretty sure he wants to stay as well. But money talks, so I guess we'll see what happens."
Club bosses are insistent they won't rush Luai into a decision, with a number of other players coming off contract soon. "This club and the team has had over the past few years has been built on some really disciplined salary cap decisions," football boss Matt Cameron said. "We think we can get a deal done. We think he wants to be here. We're confident we can get that sorted."
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