The contract saga of Panthers star Jarome Luai has taken a fresh turn as Penrith up their contract offer in an attempt to retain the services of the three-time premiership winner. Luai was told by club officials earlier this month that they could offer Luai a maximum of $800,000 per season due to salary cap restraints and beyond that he was free to look at his options elsewhere.
Yet as reports swirled that Luai could command north of $ 1million elsewhere, the Panthers have now upped their offer, tabling a $1.7million, two-year deal to extend Luai's contract until the end of 2026. If he chooses not to take the offer he can test the open market from November 1.
'FREAKISH TALENT': Melbourne Storm to lock down promising youngster
'FRIGHTENING': NRL star in scary ordeal ahead of switch to Roosters
Last week Luai announced he was signing with management company Black Money Enterprises - who manage the likes of Latrell Michell and Cody Walker - as rival clubs prepare to enter into a bidding war for his services. The crafty five-eighth split with management company SFX in July and cannot sign with a new agent for three months under a “90-day termination clause”, however, SFX offered to waive the clause if Luai allows the Panthers to negotiate directly with him and his family.
The premiers don't have much space left in their salary cap after recently extending fullback Dylan Edward's contract, offering him a new four-year deal reportedly worth $850,000 per year. Penrith chief Matt Cameron recently told The Daily Telegraph that Luai is aware of the club's salary cap capacity and while they ideally want to keep him, the ball is in his court.
“Jarome is contracted until the end of 2024 so we don’t see a need to rush these conversations," Cameron said. “Jarome is a three-time premiership player who will obviously command interest on the open market and the Panthers have no problem with him investigating all his options moving forward.”
Panthers have numerous players on big-money deals, including Nathan Cleary (who earns around $1.3 million per year), James Fisher-Harris ($950,000), Dylan Edwards ($850,000), and Liam Martin ($750,000).
Mark Geyer says Luai would be 'mad not to take the money'
Speaking on Triple M last week, Panthers legend Mark Geyer said if he was in Luai's position he would take the offer on the table and stay at the foot of the mountain. “Deep down, you’d be mad not to take the money... I’d stay because that feeling of winning every week and being a part of that, it’s contagious," he said. "When you’re losing and on a lot of money, it doesn’t make you feel good.”
“He’s won three competitions with Penrith, you look at some of the other players who have left Penrith of the last few seasons, only someone like (Kurt) Capewell at the Broncos has seen success,” Geyer said. "Sometimes money doesn’t buy happiness — and competitions do. He’s won three in a row, why not make it four?”
Luai is currently recovering from a shoulder injury that ruled him out of Samoa's Pacific Test series, having recently helped the Panthers to a third straight premiership. The No.6 is off contract at the end of next season and is free to negotiate with rival clubs from November 1.
Sign up to our newsletter and score the biggest sport stories of the week.