Penrith Panthers confirmed that the club was notified by Stephen Crichton’s management group that he was seeking opportunities elsewhere in 2024.
Now his future has been confirmed now that the favourites for his signature the Canterbury Bulldogs beat the five other clubs chasing him for 2024.
They released the following statement:
“The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs are pleased to announce that Stephen Crichton has accepted a four-year deal that will see him join the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs from the 2024 season onwards.
“Out of respect to both Stephen and the Penrith Panthers, the Club will make no further comment until he joins us at the end of the 2023 season.”
Former Penrith Panthers assistant Cameron Ciraldo is in charge at Canterbury and perhaps masterminded this move.
This comes after it was reported last week that Crichton was keen to stay and just waiting on the right offer.
However, the club has confirmed that they made a substantial offer in May 2022 for Crichton to remain at the Panthers and were disappointed the club could not reach an agreement at that point in time.
Given the uncertainty surrounding the NRL salary cap and CBA negotiations, contract discussions were put on hold at the backend of the 2022 season, while the club worked to establish its position.
As a dual premiership winner and World Cup player, external interest in Crichton’s services were to be expected and although the club was working to maintain the representative player, Crichton made the decision to move forward with other interests.
“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.
“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 he is fully committed to finishing the year strongly with the Panthers.
“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.”