Panthers planning big moves following Luai departure

Julian Miller
By:
Julian Miller
11/01/2024
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Panthers planning for life after Luai

Mitch Kenny, Izack Tago, and Sunia Turuva have all emerged as candidates for new, long-term contracts at Panthers. 

News Insights

  • Jarome Luai has agreed to join Wests Tigers in 2025.
  • Panthers are planning on spending Luai’s salary on existing players.
  • Mitch Kenny, Izack Tago, and Sunia Turuva could all get new deals.
  • Panthers are Premiership favourites heading into the 2024 NRL season.

After months of trying to keep their star five-eighth, Jarome Luai, at the club, Penrith Panthers are now having to plan for life without him. Luai has agreed to a massive $6 million five-year deal with Wooden Spoon holders Wests Tigers, meaning Panthers now have a hole to fill in their squad before the 2025 NRL season.  
 
Instead of filling that hole with a new player right away, reports claim Panthers are looking to use Luai’s old salary to lock down players already on the squad to new, long-term contracts.  

Panthers have $1.7 million to spend in salary 

Jarome Luai’s new contract with Tigers will see him make well over $1 million per season. Panthers, on the other hand, were not able to offer him more than around $850,000 per season over four years, or around $3.4 million total.  
 
Reports now claim Panthers have pencilled in $1.7 million of the $3.4 million that was supposed to go to Luai over the next two seasons for renewing existing contracts.  
 
Peter Lang, a Panthers news correspondent and rugby league columnist for The Western Weekender newspaper in Penrith, claims Mitch Kenny, Sunia Turuva, and Izack Tago are the main names on the list of players who may get new deals.  
 
Both Turuva and Kenny’s contracts expire at the end of this season, meaning they could agree to a deal to leave the club now, like Luai has. Tago’s contract runs through to the end of the NRL 2025 season, but given his explosion onto the scene in 2023, the club are keen to lock him down to a new, long-term deal as soon as possible.  
 
In addition to Turuva, Kenny, and Tago, other sources claim Brad Schneider, Daine Laurie, or youngster Jack Cole could also get a new deal before the 2025 season, but that largely depends on which, if any, of those three emerges as a Jarome Luai successor during the 2024 NRL season.  

Panthers looking to maintain dominance without Luai 

Few teams in NRL history have put together such a string of dominant seasons as Panthers have in recent years. The Penrith club have won three straight Premierships and have finished top of the ladder in three of the last four NRL seasons.  
 
They’ve continued to win despite losing key players, so many expect them to continue winning after Luai leaves in 2025. It may sound extreme to start thinking that far ahead, but Panthers are. The Luai saga has reportedly left a bad taste in the organisation’s mouth, which is why they are so inclined to tie down current stars to new contracts.  
 
People close to the club say Panthers are more concerned now than ever about maintaining their status as the NRL’s premier club. Should they be? According to the betting sites, no.  
 
Virtually all Australian betting sites have Panthers as big favourites to win the NRL again. PlayUp gives the club $3.75 odds to win the Premiership. The next best odds go to Broncos with $4.50 odds. Everyone else are marked outsiders. The next highest-rated clubs, Rabbitohs and Roosters, have $9.00 odds.  

Panthers start their 2024 NRL campaign on Friday March 8 in a night match against Melbourne Storm at AAMI Park in Melbourne. It should be a competitive fixture and a good test for Panthers to see if they have what it takes to win the league again.