Penrith Panthers coach Ivan Cleary has delivered a warning to rival clubs queuing up to sign Jarome Luai.

Luai, a New South Wales and Samoan representative with three premiership rings for the Panthers, is off-contract at the end of 2024 and expected to be one of the most hotly-contested signatures on the free agency market.

All players off-contract at the end of 2024 are able to negotiate with rivals as of November 1.

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Despite that, Cleary, speaking to the media on Wednesday, suggested it wasn't just money, but also role that could convince Luai to leave.

Luai has played as a five-eighth during his time at the Panthers, and while Cleary said he knew Luai could take on more responsibility, he still asked the question whether he would be ready for it.

“I think that‘s the biggest thing at play here. If any club wants to (pay) the money we're talking about then he may consider leaving but it would have to be for that kind of role,” Cleary said.

“It‘s also, is he ready for that? That's a question mark. Could he do it? I'm sure he could do it. Has he done it (yet)? No, he hasn't. He's done it with Samoa in last year's world cup. Generally speaking in this team, he has had his role to play, and that's slightly different.

“I guess that‘s a risk everyone will have to take.”

Reports suggest the Panthers will be at least $150,000 per season short of their rivals in offering Luai a deal for 2025 and beyond, meaning he could elect to sign elsewhere.

It was tipped that if he was going to stay with the Panthers, he would have already negotiated and signed a new deal, particularly given he hasn't been involved in international rugby league due to injury in recent weeks.

The Panthers are under enormous salary cap pressure though, and could be forced to fold on Luai.

Despite that, Cleary said he wants Luai to stay, and suggested the five-eighth also wants to stay.

“I want to make it really clear, we want him to stay … I think he wants to stay but money talks, so we‘ll see,” Cleary said.

“We're very comfortable with where it's at, I spoke to him recently.

“I guess this was the day everyone was waiting for but essentially, we're very comfortable with where it's at, he's obviously exploring his options.

“(Other clubs) are always looking for quality halves and he's definitely one of those.

“He knows where we're at, now it's just a matter of getting out there, checking it out, coming back and we'll see what happens after that.”


  1. My question is Jarome Luai is why respond to your coach’s comments on Instagram with the quote “KnowYourWorth”, just Luai being himself, obviously he thinks that $850,000 is a bit shy, but honestly any smart club wouldn’t offer him over $1 Million

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