Jarome Luai, the Panthers‘ notable five-eighth, has been informed by his team that they are unable to participate in any highly competitive financial tug-of-war for his professional skills. Due to the limitations imposed by the salary cap, Luai is unlikely to command a salary exceeding $800,000 per season from the club.
Coming hot on the heels of Dylan Edwards‘ four-year extension with the team, which will see him donning the Panthers‘ colours until the close of 2028 on a deal valued at $3.4 million, the club has sprung into action to lock in Luai’s signature.
Luai has been advised by the Panthers that their offer will probably range between a cool $700,000 – $800,000 for each season. At this juncture, they are incapable of making a more generous offer. No formal proposal has been submitted to Luai at this time.
Fresh from signaling his interest in breaking free from the constraints of his existing contract, Luai will morph into a free agent come November 1. However, a variety of factors have curtailed the club’s ability to seal a deal prior to this player’s entry into the market.
Meanwhile, the Panthers have strategically moved to bring aboard playmaker Brad Schneider on a two-year contract from Super League club Hull KR. Schneider’s signing is aimed at filling the gap left by Jack Cogger, who is currently Newcastle-bound.
In mid-July, Luai opted to put an end to his contract with management entity SFX. Nonetheless, NRL contract stipulations prevent this double premiership-winner from aligning with a substitute agency within a 90-day windows.
Just last month, League Initiative highlighted that Luai’s former manager had presented the Panthers with an option for SFX to forego the 90-day expiration term, provided that the club could hash out an agreement directly with Luai.
However, SFX shot down any chances of discarding this clause in the event that Luai chose to seek the services of a different management firm. The grapevine suggested that Luai had his sights set on Black Money, a company renowned for representing heavy-hitters such as Latrell Mitchell, Jack Wighton and Cody Walker.
Recently, the Panthers took the time to sit down with Luai to garner a deeper comprehension of his personal stance, coupled with his desire to strike a direct deal with the club prior to choosing a new manager in mid-October.
The Panthers have steadily been losing their star players, averaging two each year over the last few seasons. They said goodbye to Matt Burton and Kurt Capewell post-2021 Grand Final, waved off Api Koroisau and Viliame Kikau after their triumphant 2022 season and are set to see Spencer Leniu and Stephen Crichton exit this year.
Owing to the towering offers made to players like Nathan Cleary, Dylan Edwards, James Fisher-Harris, Liam Martin and Isaah Yeo, the Panthers’ financial modus operandi within the salary cap framework is extremely tight.
However, Luai, who successfully demonstrated his ability to captain a team to the hilt sans Cleary during last year’s World Cup for Samoa, could save himself an impressive sum by directly dealing with the club.
NRL players on average fork out nearly six per cent of their contract values towards agent fees. If Luai were to sign a contract for $800,000, opting to manage the negotiation himself could potentially save him an estimated $192,000 over a four-year span.
The prospect of Luai as a free agent has caught the attention of NRL legend Andrew Johns, who theorises that he could garner offers up to $1 million per season. On a recent episode of Nine’s Immortal Behaviour podcast, he stated, “Jarome’s got a young family so you can totally understand if he goes onto the open market fetching a million dollars. Over five years, that’s nearly two million dollars more than the Panthers deal, you can’t ignore that. His decisions are definitely going to be the talk of the town.”