SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 02: Viliame Kikau of the Panthers offloads the ball to Apisai Koroisau of the Panthers during the round 16 NRL match between the Penrith Panthers and the Parramatta Eels at BlueBet Stadium on July 02, 2021, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

The Penrith Panthers have made a frank admission as they aim to build their squad for 2023 and beyond.

Panthers’ chairman Dave O’Neill has told The Daily Telegraph that they simply won’t be able to keep everyone.

Viliame Kikau has recently been the topic of hot discussion in rugby league circles, with a rumour of him being tied to the St George Illawarra Dragons from the start of his next contract - 2023 - simply refusing to go away.

Kikau has previously trashed the report as “fake news” while St George Illawarra coach Anthony Griffin clarified the club haven’t discussed Kikau.

However, other clubs are likely to line up around the block for the dangerous Kikau, who is one of the best edge forwards in the competition.

His 94 NRL appearances have slowly seen him rise to prominence, with 23 this season seeing him score nine tries.

Kikau is likely to command up to $900,000 for his next deal, a figure the Panthers simply won’t be able to match as they balance a number of high-profile upgrades already handed out, as well as the need to upgrade Apisai Koroisau’s current cut-price deal.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 20: Apisai Koroisau of the Panthers looks on during a Penrith Panthers NRL training session at Panthers Stadium on October 20, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

While Kurt Capewell has already left the club, players off-contract at the end of 2022 are free to negotiate from November 1.

O’Neill told the publication it would be difficult for them to keep Kikau.

“It will be hard for us to keep him because he is going to command big dollars, especially with the way he is playing at the moment,” said O’Neill.

“We can’t keep all of them. That’s the nature of the game, (that’s being) realistic. The salary cap is there for a reason and we have to make sure we comply with it, which we do. “Unfortunately there will have to be decisions based on where people fit in the cap.

“We will have to address that after the season. I don’t know what sort of money Vili will command but I’m sure there will be clubs that will offer big dollars. It will be hard if the dollars being bandied around are true.

“We will try and do as much as we possibly can to keep him but, at the end of the day, it will, I suppose, all come down to the dollars. It will depend where Vili and his manager (George Christodolou) sit and whether he’s happy at Penrith.

“It will come down to what result you want for your family.”

It’s understood some recruitment managers believe Kikau could be worth over $900,000, while some are only of the impression he is worth $700,000 to $750,000, a figure Penrith may be able to match.

Alongside the Dragons, the Sydney Roosters, Canberra Raiders, Wests Tigers and New Zealand Warriors have all been linked to the Fijian superstar.

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