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The Panthers have told five-eighth Jarome Luai they cannot afford to get into a bidding war for his services, with salary cap restrictions meaning he is unlikely to be offered more than $800,000 a season.
Fresh from agreeing a four-year extension to keep Dylan Edwards at the club until the end of 2028 on a deal worth $3.4 million, the Panthers have moved to secure Luai’s signature.
The club has told Luai their offer is likely to be between $700,000-$800,000 a season and don’t have the capacity as it stands to offer him more. No formal offer has been presented to Luai. The Panthers declined to comment when contacted by the Herald on Monday night.
The Penrith five-eighth will become a free agent on November 1, but a range of factors have limited the club’s ability to get a deal done before he hits the market.
It comes as the Panthers secured playmaker Brad Schneider from Super League club Hull KR on a two-year deal to replace Newcastle-bound Jack Cogger.
Luai terminated his contract with management company SFX in the middle of July, but a condition of NRL playing contracts prohibits the two-time premiership winner from linking with a new agency for 90 days.
The Herald reported last month that Luai’s previous manager had told the Panthers SFX would waive the 90-day termination clause if the club was able to strike a deal directly with Luai.
Jarome Luai leaves the field with Panthers physio Pete Green during a game against Parramatta last week.Credit: Getty
SFX would not agree to waive the clause if Luai wanted to engage another management company. There was speculation that Luai was being linked to Black Money, the company that looks after Latrell Mitchell, Jack Wighton and Cody Walker.
The Panthers have since sat down with Luai to get a better understanding of his position, and whether he wanted to do a deal directly with the club before he is able to appoint a manager in mid-October.
Penrith have lost two top-line players each year for the past few years. They lost Matt Burton and Kurt Capewell after the 2021 grand final, shed Api Koroisau and Villiame Kikau after their 2022 success and will this year lose Spencer Leniu and Stephen Crichton.
Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai.Credit: NRL Photos
The Panthers’ salary cap position is tight given the big-money offers to Nathan Cleary (estimated at $1.3 million per year), Edwards ($850,000), James Fisher-Harris ($950,000), Liam Martin ($750,000) and Isaah Yeo ($850,000).
Luai, who showed he is capable of leading a team without Cleary with his feats for Samoa at last year’s World Cup, could save himself hundreds of thousands of dollars by doing a deal directly with the club.
On average, NRL players pay close to six per cent of their contracts in agent fees. If Luai signs a deal worth $800,000, handling it himself would save an estimated $192,000 over a four-year period.
NRL immortal Andrew Johns believes Luai could attract offers of $1m a season if he hits the open market.
”Jarome’s got a young family so you can totally understand it but if Jarome goes on the open market he’s getting a million dollars,” Johns said on Nine’s Immortal Behaviour podcast. “Over five years you’re talking near two million dollars [extra than the Panthers deal], you can’t stay for that. That’s going to be the big story moving forward.”
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