May 27, 2024

Penrith star player Jarome Luai was conspicuously absent from Monday’s training session, adding to the existing tensions surrounding his decision to part ways with the Panthers and join the Wests Tigers.

Luai’s representatives communicated to the Panthers that the five-eighth would not be participating in training, just 48 hours after informing coach Ivan Cleary and teammates about his departure to the Tigers at the conclusion of the 2024 season. Insiders, seeking anonymity, revealed that Luai needed time away from the club, particularly following the media’s revelation on Saturday regarding his impending move to the Wests Tigers.

While Luai has not formally requested a release, his non-attendance could potentially prompt the Tigers to pursue an immediate transfer to Concord. However, this would depend on Penrith’s willingness to release him, Luai’s readiness to depart, and the Tigers finding the necessary salary cap space to match his current $780,000 contract.

Jarome Luai set to join Wests Tigers on mammoth five-year deal – The  Western Weekender The Western Weekender I Penrith News

On the day the Herald reported his anticipated signing with the Tigers, Luai was present at training on Saturday. Forced to address the situation with his teammates, he disclosed his expected departure at the end of the season to join Tigers coach Benji Marshall at the struggling team. Luai left Penrith’s training facility over an hour before his teammates.

Initially scheduled to train until Wednesday, Luai opted not to rejoin the group on Monday, and it remains uncertain whether he will return on Tuesday. Despite attempts to contact him, Luai did not respond to calls, and the Panthers declined to comment on the matter.

The Tigers could potentially offer Luai a more lucrative deal than his current Penrith contract if he decides to leave before its expiration. Penrith has already compensated Luai for two months’ service since the start of the rugby league calendar year, potentially saving the Tigers approximately $150,000.

Tensions between Luai and the Panthers have been lingering since Cleary’s comments two months ago, cautioning rival clubs against offering the playmaker more than $1 million a season due to his relative inexperience. Luai seemingly responded on Instagram, posting an image with the caption “know your worth.” While Penrith initially offered a two-year deal of about $1.7 million, they have since increased the offer to a three-year deal worth around $2.55 million.

In contrast, the Tigers are on the verge of finalizing a more lucrative deal for Luai, estimated at around $1.2 million per season. While the NRL paperwork is pending, the Panthers are expected to waive the 10-day waiting period, signaling a lack of interest in engaging in a bidding war with the Tigers. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs, having verbally offered Luai a five-year deal, continue to monitor the evolving situation.

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