Panthers fans saddened by Zac Hosking news in wake of Jarome Luai's confirmed exit

The back-rower has departed the club with immediate effect to take up a three-year deal with a rival NRL club.

Zac Hosking and Jarome Luai at the Penrith Panthers.
Zac Hosking (third from R) has departed the Panthers just days after Jarome Luai's (L) move to the Wests Tigers was confirmed for 2025. Image: Getty

The Panthers have released Zac Hosking to the Canberra Raiders with immediate effect, in the latest blow to the NRL club just days after Jarome Luai's move to the Tigers was confirmed. The Panthers announced the move on Wednesday afternoon, allowing back-rower Hosking to take up a three-year deal with the Raiders.

It's the latest example of the salary cap squeeze that has seen a number of top players depart the Panthers in recent years. The Panthers have won three-consecutive premierships, but their success has meant a number of high-profile players have had to look elsewhere to fully cash in and be paid what they're worth.

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Panthers chief executive Matt Cameron said the club was well aware they would struggle to keep Hosking beyond this year should a rival club offer him more money. The back-rower had one more year remaining on his deal, but has been released to join the Raiders with immediate effect.

Zac Hosking.
Zac Hosking (R) in action for the Panthers in 2023. (Photo by Jeremy Ng/Getty Images)

"After coming to the Panthers and being an integral member of the 2023 squad, we always knew keeping Zac at the club beyond 2024 would always be an uphill battle," Cameron said in a statement. Hosking would once again be battling Liam Martin, Sean Sorensen and Luke Garner for playing time if he stayed at Penrith.

Hosking spent just one season at the Panthers after a move from the Brisbane Broncos, playing 21 games in 2023. However he fell out of the 17 at the back-end of the season and wasn't picked to play in the grand final win over the Broncos.

Hosking joins the likes of Luai, Stephen Crichton, Spencer Leniu, Matt Burton, Viliame Kikau and Api Koroisau as premiership players to leave the club in recent years. It comes just days after the Wests Tigers confirmed the signing of Luai on a five-year deal from 2025 - thought to be worth $6 million.

Salary cap pressures meant the Panthers could only afford to offer Luai about $1.7 million for two years. Panthers fans reacted with sadness to the news about Hosking on Monday.

Zac Hosking to fill Elliott Whitehead void at Raiders

With captain and fellow back-rower Elliott Whitehead announcing 2024 will be his last season, Hosking is likely viewed as his long-term replacement in Canberra. The 26-year-old Hosking will likely have to bide his time behind Whitehead and NSW State of Origin forward Hudson Young in 2024, but should move into a starting role in 2025.

The Raiders had also been linked with gun back-rowers like David Fifita and Keaon Koloamatangi, but will settle for the talented Hosking. "In the brief time we've known Zac, and through watching him play in the NRL over the last few seasons, it's evident that his work ethic, ability, and character will be great additions to our Club," Canberra recruiting boss Joel Carbone said in a statement. "He also adds some versatility to our squad having played several positions in his career and we're delighted to have him on board."

The Raiders were lacking some depth in the back-row last year after Corey Harawira-Naera suffered a mid-game seizure in June and didn't play again in 2023. Middle forward Corey Horsburgh had to spend some time on an edge as a result.

with AAP

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