NRL Rd 23 - Panthers v Storm
PENRITH, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 04: Jarome Luai of the Panthers runs the ball during the round 23 NRL match between Penrith Panthers and Melbourne Storm at BlueBet Stadium on August 04, 2023 in Penrith, Australia. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

The Wests Tigers aggressive recruitment drive under new coach Benji Marshall is reportedly going up a gear, with the club now front-runners for Jarome Luai.

Luai is one of the biggest free agents still available for 2025 following the passing of the November 1 deadline which allows players off-contract at the end of the following year to negotiate their futures.

Reportedly set to be chased by a number of clubs, the Tigers activity in the free agency market so far is believed to have centred on Luai and out of favour Melbourne Storm centre Justin Olam, while they are believed to have already missed out on Bradman Best.

It's believed Marshall has met with both players face to face, although at this stage, and now, a formal offer has been tabled for Luai.

News Corp are reporting that the Tigers will likely put over $4 million on the table over a four-year period for Luai.

Journalist David Riccio revealed on SEN Radio that a deal is starting to gain some traction, and a board meeting that has now been held at the Tigers was set to rubber-stamp the club's pursuit of the Origin five-eighth.

“At a recent house visit to Benji's place made by Luai, (a deal) is now starting to gain some traction," Riccio said on SEN 1170 Breakfast.

“Let's not forget the relationship of Apisai Koroisau and Charlie Staines, (both) former Panthers.

“The Wests Tigers have a board meeting this week and it will give some indication on how much they are willing to go all in for Jarome Luai.

“This will pick up and gain some traction in the next 48 to 72 hours.

“There is an increasing confidence in the Wests Tigers (that they'll get him).”

Salary is likely to be the biggest weapon in the Tigers' arsenal as they chase players, with the club believed to have a lot of room to move on the books for 2025.

That follows the departure of Luke Brooks for 2024 to the Manly Sea Eagles, but also a number of other players currently having unclear futures.

As Benji Marshall prepares to rebuild the club away from the bottom of the ladder, more players are likely to come into the firing line of the Tigers.

It's understood Luai is likely to receive up to $1 million on the open market, compared to potentially just $850,000 at the Panthers over the length of his next deal.

The three-time defending premiers have salary cap issues, and there is a school of thought that suggests Luai would have already re-signed if he was planning to stay at the foot of the mountains given the club have effectively given him a take it or leave it style deal.

It's believed the Tigers will be up against the Canterbury Bulldogs in the race for the five-eighth's signature.