May 28, 2024

The Wests Tigers’ efforts to bolster their player roster are taking on a personal dimension, as coach Benji Marshall engages in a second face-to-face meeting within a fortnight. Following Marshall’s recent trip to Melbourne to confer with Justin Olam, aimed at expediting contract negotiations, The Sydney Morning Herald now reports additional meetings with Penrith Panthers’ five-eighth Jarome Luai.

Luai’s current contract expires in 2024, enabling discussions with other clubs since November 1. Despite earlier indications that Luai was likely to extend his contract with the Panthers—expressed by coach Ivan Cleary—the ongoing delay in reaching an agreement has raised speculation about a potential departure.

Recent revelations indicate that Marshall visited Luai at his residence, where discussions reportedly included the prospect of Luai joining the Tigers. The Tigers are purportedly willing to surpass the million-dollar per year threshold to secure Luai, while the Panthers, constrained by financial limits, can offer around $850,000 per season.

Although financial considerations are not the sole determinants, Luai’s failure to finalize a deal with his existing or new management before November 1 suggests an increasing likelihood of his departure from the Panthers.

The Tigers have additional leverage in Marshall’s role as head coach, taking over from Tim Sheens, who was Luai’s childhood idol. The prospect of joining forces with former Panther Apisai Koroisau, who faced challenges in his inaugural season with the joint-venture team, adds another dimension to the potential move.

The Panthers are reportedly anticipating a decision from Luai before Christmas, adding intrigue to the unfolding narrative of this player recruitment endeavor.

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