BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 03: Stephen Crichton of the Panthers celebrates with Paul Momirovski of the Panthers after winning the 2021 NRL Grand Final match between the Penrith Panthers and the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Suncorp Stadium on October 03, 2021, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

The Penrith Panthers have confirmed Stephen Crichton will depart the club at the end of the 2023 NRL season.

Media speculation has been following Crichton for much of the last 12 months, with reports that the Canterbury Bulldogs are lining up the Panthers, New South Wales Blues and Samoa centre to head to Belmore from the start of the 2024 campaign.

Other clubs have also been reported to show interest, although it's understood the Bulldogs are front-runners to claim his signature.

Penrith confirmed on Monday that Crichton would not be at the club beyond the end of the coming season, with the men from the foot of the mountains confirming they made an offer to Crichton and his management as early as May of last year, but have been unable to come to an agreement with the star.

The Panthers were rumoured to have not made an offer to Crichton just weeks ago, but stated that while an offer was made, negotiations were put on hold at the back end of 2022 as the NRL and Rugby League Players Association continued to negotiate the collective bargaining agreement and salary cap for years to come.

“Although Panthers is disappointed by the outcome, the club respects Stephen's decision, and understands the situation is exacerbated by salary cap pressure based on the club's recent success,” Panthers Rugby League CEO Matt Cameron said in a club statement.

“The club thanks Stephen for his efforts and is looking forward to seeing him represent the Panthers for the remainder of the 2023 NRL season.”

Crichton said it was a hard decision, but that he would stay committed to the Panthers for the upcoming campaign.

“It was the hardest decision to make, but now my full focus is on the 2023 season and finishing my time at Panthers as strong as I can,” he said.

“It's going to be tough to leave my teammates, but we will have our chance to make more memories this year. I know my friendships at Panthers won't finish here but will last forever.”

No club have confirmed Crichton's signature as yet for 2024, with Penrith to open their 2023 season against the Brisbane Broncos.