Penrith Panthers Can’t Afford To Sign Jarome Luai, But They Can’t Afford To Lose Him Either

Luai could be ready to step up and be the main man elsewhere, but for Penrith, letting him leave would be a huge mistake.

Penrith Panthers Can’t Afford To Sign Jarome Luai, But They Can’t Afford To Lose Him Either

Image: Getty

What to do with Jarome Luai? The Penrith Panthers playmaker could become a very popular player with rival clubs when the November 1 deadline comes around, with Luai reportedly making very clear demands to the Sydney side – demands that they’re not inclined to match.

Penrith Panther’s star Jarome Luai has dominated the footy talk this week with reports that he could be leaving the side he’s called home after five years. The West Sydney side has been making no secret of their desire to keep their key man, but a strict NRL salary cap could restrict their efforts to secure Luai long-term.

The Panthers currently sit atop the NRL ladder with 32 points from 18, and with a game in hand over the chasing Brisbane Broncos on course to reach a third consecutive Grand Final, so why would Luai even consider leaving now?

Why would Luai want to leave?

Jarome Luai has a clear understanding of his value to his team, and ultimately this saga could come down to which team is willing to match the Samoa international’s demands. With a reported $1 million offer on the table from the Bulldogs, Luai could well relish the opportunity to make the move and team up with Stephen Crichton and Viliame Kikau again come next season. But with the Dogs sitting 16th with only 6 wins all season, Luai could well feel that Canterbury won’t be able to match his ambition of potentially winning a fourth NRL Premiership.

The challenge here for Luai is just that: after four years with Penrith, Luai has graced three NRL Grand Finals, secured two NRL Premierships and is on course for a third, dominating the competition over the last three years.

Jarome Luai has won two NRL premierships with Penrith. Image: NRL

The Panthers have secured their best players on long-term deals, and with Luai’s on-pitch partner Nathan Cleary signing on through to 2027, the five-eighth could well feel his place is with the Panthers after five years with the West Sydney side. Luai even recently moved into a new home in Penrith with his young family – would he jeopardise that for an extra $100,000 a year?

Of course, he could feel that after a third title, it’s time to move on and seek a new challenge; Sunday’s win over the Dolphins means Luai has now beaten every team in NRL with a record of 82 wins from 100 games, cementing his legacy as one of the best players in the league. A player of Luai’s calibre will be an extremely popular choice for teams looking to instantly improve their packs, offering versatility and efficacy in abundance – Luai could be ready to step up and be the main man elsewhere. For Penrith however, letting him leave would be a huge mistake.

Why would Panthers let him go?

The message from Penrith has been clear: we want Luai to stay.

But at risk of breaching the salary cap, Luai might have to take a calculated pay cut to stay with the Western Sydney side, and with a reported $1 million offer on the table from the Bulldogs, Luai could feel it’s his time to seek a new challenge and be the top dog in Canterbury.

Luai’s only 26 and playing at the top of his game, securing two consecutive titles and looking ahead at a third – that’s an incredible feat. Of course, he could leave come November 1st, with an expected barrage of offers from all the top clubs looking to make Luai their marquee signing for next season.

Jarome Luai could follow Panthers teammate Stephen Crichton to Bulldogs next season. Image: Getty

Although Luai had a disappointing Origin 2023 series, getting sent off in the final minutes of Game 2 and subsequently omitted from the matchday squad for NSW’s redundant win in Sydney, the NSW half brings a much-needed flair and unpredictability to his teams, offering a different dynamic with every step as he takes the game to his opponents from 6.

“I want him to stay, he wants to stay,” Ivan Cleary, Panthers head coach said in the press. “He knows what we think of him and I know how much he loves the place. He’s part of our team, he’s a local boy – it’s not just how he plays, but how he connects our team… we definitely want him here long-term.”

NRL Salary Cap

The NRL requires clubs to adhere to strict salary regulations for their entire 30-man playing squad, limited to $9.4 million, to be spread amongst the players. This allows for an average yearly contract of $313,333 for each player, but of course, some’s importance to the side is a lot more significant than others.

According to, “A salary cap provides a mechanism for clubs to control their spending on players, which is their biggest expense. Without a cap, clubs could end up spending more than they can afford to try and win games and ultimately premierships.”

With the news that Liam Martin, the 26-year-old Penrith backrower, is set to sign a three-year $2.3 million contract extension with the Panthers, joining Dylan Edwards, who agreed to a $950,000-per-season contract to commit his long-term future with the club, Penrith might not be left with much in the bank. With two lucrative contracts, Jarome Luai could well leave the club.

When Luai’s in the mood, he’s a world-class orchestrator, and well within his right to consider himself a $1 million player. It’s now down to the team to prove how much they value one of the best in the game.