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Penrith's new move to keep Jarome Luai amid $4.5 million offer from Wests Tigers

The Panthers are in a fight with the Tigers and Bulldogs to keep their premiership-winning five-eighth.

Jarome Luai.
The Panthers are willing to up their offer for Jarome Luai to stay. Image: Getty

The Penrith Panthers are reportedly considering upping their offer to Jarome Luai to include a third year on a new deal. The five-eighth is officially a free agent and can negotiate with rival clubs for the 2025 season and beyond.

The Panthers have tabled a two-year contract extension worth $1.7 million to the three-time premiership winner, but salary cap restrictions mean they can't offer him as much as some other clubs. The Wests Tigers are heavily courting Luai and are reportedly prepared to offer as much as $4.5 million for a four-year deal.

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Luai also met with Canterbury boss Phil Gould last week and might be tempted to join former Panthers teammates Stephen Crichton, Viliame Kikau and Matt Burton at the Bulldogs. The Panthers have previously stated that they won't be offering any more money to Luai, but it came to light on Monday night that they might be willing to throw in a third year on a new deal.

Penrith chief executive Matt Cameron told the Sydney Morning Herald that the club is prepared to give Luai all the time he wants to make a decision. The State of Origin representative is expected back at Panthers HQ for pre-season training on Friday.

“We’ll get Jarome back in the building on Friday and pick up our conversation from there,” Cameron said. “We’ve been in constant dialogue with him. He spoke to the coach [Ivan Cleary] just last week. We’ve been 100 per cent transparent with him, and he’s been 100 per cent transparent with us as to what is going on.

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – we’re optimistic we’ll get a deal done with Jarome. It will not be all about the money. And we’ve got a pretty good track record of players re-committing to the club and taking a little less for the chance to pursue something pretty special.”

Jarome Luai, pictured here after winning the 2022 NRL grand final with the Penrith Panthers.
Jarome Luai celebrates after winning the 2022 NRL grand final with the Penrith Panthers. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

Where will Jarome Luai be playing in 2025?

If Luai was to remain at the Panthers on a three-year deal, he would come off contract again at the same time as halves partner Nathan Cleary in 2027. If the Tigers offer the $4.5 million that is being reported, Luai would be giving up about $250,000 per season to stay at the Panthers (on a two-year deal).

Penrith have already used up some wriggle room in the cap to increase their offer to Luai from $800,000 to $850,000 per year. The club has long maintained that they will not be blowing their budget on one player alone. "This club and the team has had over the past few years has been built on some really disciplined salary cap decisions," Cameron said earlier this month.

Luai has previously admitted he is weighing up a decision between "success or family". He has some close personal friends at the Panthers, with whom he has won three-consecutive premierships.

Luai previously worked with Bulldogs coach Cameron Ciraldo during his time as an assistant with the Panthers. He also has an affinity with new Tigers coach Benji Marshall having grown up idolising his fellow five-eighth and playing with him for the Maori All-Stars.

Luai reportedly met with Marshall at his family home last month. Former Tigers player Aaron Woods said of the meeting: “I love that Benji is being pretty proactive in trying to get these players, going out to get them but we call it a secret meeting. (But) everything at the Tigers seems to come out and it’s probably going to be on Jarome Luai’s mind so it’s a funny one. But I love that Benji is out there trying to get the best players.”

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