Penrith Panthers recently confirmed that the club was notified by Stephen Crichton’s management group that he will be seeking opportunities elsewhere in 2024.
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.”
Now though, the favourites for Crichton’s signature have been revealed in the shape of Canterbury Bulldogs led by former Penrith assistant Cameron Ciraldo.
“Cameron Ciraldo in his interviews with other clubs I know he was saying to clubs, the one player I want you to make a priority signing if I come to your club is Stephen Crichton,” Brent Read said to radio station Triple M.
“Those guys have got a really good relationship.
“It was pretty clear that Cameron wanted Crichton at whatever club he was at and he is at Canterbury.
“It will get knocked over pretty quickly I would imagine.
“I know the Wests Tigers are sniffing around him, but I think even they can see they are going to struggle because he wants to go to Canterbury.
“I reckon they will knock it over pretty quickly.”
This follows reports that there could be as many as six clubs interested though it seems the Bulldogs are front runners.