Jarome Luai saga takes fresh twist amid brutal board move at Wests Tigers

Penrith's three-time premiership winner has been the subject of a reported $4.5 million bid from the Wests Tigers.

Pictured left is Penrith NRL star Jarome Luai and Wests Tigers players on right.
Jarome Luai is still being heavily courted by the Wests Tigers despite the upheaval at board level at the NRL club. Pic: Getty

Shane Richardson's appointment as interim CEO at the Wests Tigers may play into the club's hands in their multi-million dollar pursuit of star five-eighth, Jarome Luai. The three-time NRL premiership winner has reportedly been offered a four-year, $4.5 million deal to make the switch to the Tigers, who sensationally removed their entire board on Tuesday.

The Tigers' eye-watering offer for Luai is significantly more than Penrith are able to offer their star playmaker, despite the club reportedly looking to bump up its deal for Luai to from $800,000 to $850,000 per year, over three years. Luai has previously indicated he is weighing up a decision between "success or family".

'DISRESPECTFUL': Tigers legends hit back amid furore about board bloodbath 

HUGE: Ezra Mam to reject rivals in $3 million Brisbane Broncos development

NOT GOOD: Taylan May confession spells more bad news for Panthers

Richardson says the board upheaval at the Wests Tigers is not set to stop his club's pursuit of Luai and the former South Sydney CEO has long been an admirer of the five-eighth, having previously tried to sign the 26-year-old at the Rabbitohs. “I’ve made my feelings on Luai well known for a long while. In my opinion, he was the best young half coming through,” Richardson said.

The former Rabbitohs CEO initially tried to poach Luai when he was struggling for game time at Penrith after being stuck behind former representative playmaker James Maloney. Richardson says Luai is the exact type of character and talent the Tigers need to take them to the next level, as the club tries to end its long NRL finals drought in 2024.

“He’s proven at the highest level he was the best young half coming through," Richardson said about Luai. "Not only that, he’s a great team leader, that Penrith side revolves around Luai. He is a great person off the field despite what many media people try to make out. You couldn’t meet a better person than him and you couldn’t ask for a better person at your club.”

Jarome Luai decision expected before Christmas

Luai - who is still contracted to the Panthers for 2024 - was hoping to make a decision on his playing future before resuming pre-season training, however, that deadline has since been pushed back. It's understood the 26-year-old, who recently joined the same management company as Latrell Mitchell, hopes to come to a decision before Christmas.

Another factor working in the Tigers' favour in their pursuit of Luai is the playmaker's close friendship with skipper Api Koroisau, who played alongside the No.6 at Penrith. Luai also has an affinity with new Tigers coach Benji Marshall, having grown up idolising his fellow five-eighth and playing alongside him with the Maori All-Stars.

On the left is Wests Tigers coach Benji Marshall and Penrith star Jarome Luai on right.
The Wests Tigers will be hoping coach Benji Marshall can help convince Jarome Luai to join the club from Penrith. Pic: Getty

The other club heavily linked with Luai's signature is the Canterbury Bulldogs, who are coached by the playmaker's former assistant Cameron Ciraldo. Former Panthers teammates Matt Burton, Viliame Kikau and new signing Stephen Crichton will also feature at the Bulldogs in 2024. Ciraldo has already indicated he will not pursue Luai unless the five-eighth indicates he wants to leave Penrith.

"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."

with AAP

Sign up to our newsletter and score the biggest sport stories of the week.