Panthers’ desperate move to retain Jarome Luai as rival closes in

Panthers powerbrokers are reportedly willing to increase the length of their offer to superstar five-eighth Jarome Luai amid a three-club race for his signature.

The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting that Penrith bosses will add a third year to their two-year $850,000 offer which will see him come off-contract the same year as Nathan Cleary.

Penrith chief executive of rugby league Matt Cameron explained that the club were happy to give Luai however long he needs to make his decision.

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Reports previously suggested Luai would be making a decision on his future before he arrived back at pre-season training on Friday, but Cameron denied that would be the case.

“We’ve been in constant dialogue with him. He spoke to the coach [Ivan Cleary] just last week,” Cameron said.

“We’ve been 100 per cent transparent with him, and he’s been 100 per cent transparent with us as to what is going on.

“This talk of him wanting to sort out his contract before returning to training has never come from us, so I can’t comment on that.

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – we’re optimistic we’ll get a deal done with Jarome. It will not be all about the money.

“And we’ve got a pretty good track record of players recommitting to the club and taking a little less for the chance to pursue something pretty special.”

The news comes amid reports the Wests Tigers’ big-money pursuit of Luai has come at a price.

It means the club’s plans to sign Justin Olam as part of a player swap with Shawn Blore has been put on ice.

It was revealed last month that the Tigers were in negotiations with Olam over an immediate move that would have opened the door for Blore to sign with the Storm.

But according to News Corp those talks have been put on hold as the Tigers put all attention and energy into the Luai chase.

The Tigers reportedly tabled a four-year offer to the three-time premiership-winning five-eighth said to be worth $1.125 million a season, while the Bulldogs have also entered the race for Luai.

Olam has fallen out of favour at the Storm with the PNG international even being dropped to Queensland Cup during last season.

However, given the Tigers’ change of heart, the 29-year-old is now expected to remain in Melbourne for next season.

He is signed until the end of 2026 but the Storm would be willing to release him early.

There could be interest abroad with News Corp reporting Warrington coach Sam Burgess considered signing Olam a few months ago.

RAIDER’S FUTURE UP IN THE AIR

Corey Harawira-Naera is set to take a big step in determining his playing future with News Corp reporting the Raiders forward will have an important meeting in January.

The 28-year-old suffered a seizure on the field in May and hasn’t played since.

According toNews Corp he is facing the prospect of his career being over after meeting with a specialist this week — but will have more clarity following a meeting in January.

The Raiders are preparing for the worst outcome and are moving quickly, News Corp reports, with the club applying for salary cap exemption while he is sidelined.

Harawira-Naera is said to be earning around $600,000 a season and has two years remaining on his contract.

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