Despite the well-reported interest from the Canterbury Bulldogs, it appears the Penrith Panthers are still in pole position to retain the services of star centre Stephen Crichton.

Though the Panthers delayed their negotiations with Crichton until the salary cap figure had been determined, the towering speedster is reportedly ‘desperate' to remain at the club.

While that's good news for Panthers fans, it's less likely to appease the Bulldogs or The Dolphins – who were both reported to be interested in Crichton's services.

“The development is that Stephen Crichton, grand final hero, is absolutely desperate to stay at the Penrith Panthers,” Daily Telegraph journalist Phil Rothfield told Big Sports Breakfast.

“He grew up in the area alongside all his teammates there and he played for Samoa alongside his teammates. He does not want to go anywhere."

Rothfield also dismissed suggestions that Crichton would look elsewhere for an opportunity to play fullback, claiming he would take a pay-cut to remain where he is despite his earning potential.

“There has been reports that he wants to play fullback – he is denying that and understands their current fullback (Dylan Edwards) has done such a wonderful job… he understands his future at the club at this stage is as a centre.

“He is prepared to take a significant pay-cut to stay at the Panthers. The problem is, the club has not made him any sort of offer to stay.

“Penrith can get out of this by saying ‘look we only found out the day before Christmas what the salary cap is' – so now the ball is in Penrith's court.”

“(His loyalty) can only last so long. He is a young player and he has to sort his future out.

“Matt Cameron, Ivan Cleary and everyone else at Penrith need to get off their backsides and talk to this kid and say ‘this is your offer.'”

Crichton has played 76 NRL games for the Panthers since making his debut in 2019. He also made his State of Origin and Test debuts in 2022.