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Take it or leave it - Panthers won't raise offer despite Luai set to reject Ivan's advice to become chief playmaker at rivals

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23rd November, 2023
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The chances of Jarome Luai switching clubs are firming with Wests Tigers in the box seat to land the controversial playmaker’s signature and Penrith refusing to budge on their initial offer.

Tigers coach Benji Marshall recently met Luai in his home and it is believed a deal has been tabled worth as much as $4.4 million to make him the face of the Wests Tigers and hand him the responsibility of helping drag the club back from 12 years of on-field misery.

It would also significantly trump the offer made by Penrith last month in a financial sense, given the three-time defending premiers’ pitch is worth $1.7 million over two seasons.

And the Panthers have responded by saying they won’t enter a bidding war for his services.

PENRITH, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 04: Jarome Luai of the Panthers runs the ball during the round 23 NRL match between Penrith Panthers and Melbourne Storm at BlueBet Stadium on August 04, 2023 in Penrith, Australia. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

Jarome Luai. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

If the Tigers offer their deal as expected, Luai would have to give up $250,000 a season to stay at the Panthers, along with the security of a longer contract at Concord.

Penrith already used up some wriggle room in increasing their offer to Luai from $800,000 to $850,000 last month.

That deal remains on the table and as far as Penrith are concerned Luai is able to accept it at any point with no deadline in place.

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If Luai was to be won over by the Tigers, Penrith would still have 10 days to try and convince him to stay under new NRL rules. But the club has long maintained they will not blow their budget on any one player, having been able to continue to regenerate success during their current run.

“This club and the team has had over the past few years has been built on some really disciplined salary cap decisions,” football boss Matt Cameron said earlier this month.

Luai has previously admitted he is weighing up a decision between “success or family”, also noting he has close childhood friends at the Panthers.

Canterbury are also in the race for Luai’s services for 2025 after the NSW and Samoan five-eighth’s current contract expires.

The Bulldogs have several links to Luai at the club in coach Cameron Ciraldo and former Panthers teammates Viliame Kikau, Matt Burton and Stephen Crichton on the books.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 12: David Klemmer of the Wests Tigers shows his emotion during the round two NRL match between Wests Tigers and Newcastle Knights at Leichhardt Oval on March 12, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

David Klemmer. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

According to a NewsCorp report, Luai has told some current teammates that he is leaning towards leaving at the end of next season and that a third party at the Tigers is offering prop David Klemmer to rival clubs even though he is under contract for three more years as a way of clearing extra salary space for the club.

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The Panthers have a tight salary cap even though they have recently shed Spencer Leniu to the Roosters and Crichton from their roster.

Marshall is believed to have told Luai that he can step out of Nathan Cleary’s shadow at Wests to be the team’s main on-field organiser, a role that appeals to the 26-year-old who has often been criticised for riding on the coattails of his superstar halves partner.

Panthers coach Ivan Cleary recently warned Luai to be careful what he wishes for in that regard. He has thrived as an off-the-cuff secondary playmaker during his time at Penrith and does not have the kicking game that the elite halves in the NRL use to control the territorial battle in games.

“I think that’s that’s the biggest thing at play here,” Ivan Cleary said. “If any club wants to (offer) the money, we’re talking, probably the money that he may consider leaving (for), it would have to be for that kind of role.

“Is he ready for that? That’s a question mark. Could he do it? I’m sure he can do it. Has he done it? No, he hasn’t. He’s done a little bit with Samoa of course at last year’s World Cup.

“But generally speaking, in this team he’s had his role to play. So it would be slightly different. So I guess that’s a risk that everyone would have to take.”

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The Tigers are coming off the back of two straight wooden spoons and have signed veteran halfback Aidan Sezer to be their chief playmaker next season with young Dragons recruit Jayden Sullivan or ex-Manly young gun Latu Fainu expected to be his halves partner with Adam Doueihi sidelined until midway through the season due to knee surgery.

If Penrith were to lose Luai, 20-year-old Orange product Jack Cole is seen as a future option at five-eighth, while the club has made a habit of using journeymen there in the past.

Jack Cogger starred at five-eighth when he came on late in Penrith’s grand-final comeback, but he has moved to Newcastle for 2024.

with AAP

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