Panthers up the ante to ward off $1.2m Luai offer

The race for Jarome Luai’s signature is set to intensify, with Penrith prepared to increase the amount of years on their initial offer to the five-eighth in a bid to ward off big-money interest from Wests Tigers.

Luai’s future has been the talk of the off-season, with the three-time premiership winner paying visits to Bulldogs football boss Phil Gould and Tigers coach Benji Marshall.

It’s understood Luai wanted to make a call about his future before returning to training with the premiers, but there’s yet to be any clarity ahead of his return on Friday.

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The Panthers’ offer is reportedly worth around $850,000 a season for two years – but $300,000 less per season than the Tigers’ offer, which is for four years and includes the chance to play halfback.

Speaking to The Sydney Morning Herald Penrith chief executive Matt Cameron said the club is willing to add a third year to the deal.

“We’ll get Jarome back in the building on Friday and pick up our conversation from there,” Cameron said.

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

“We just want to get him back in the building, make sure his shoulder is OK, then talk about his contract. There’s no rush from us.

“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.”

Luai is still recovering from shoulder surgery and is in some doubt to play in the World Club Challenge in Wigan in February.

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