“With Jarome, he’s a local boy, he’s come through the system and you can always see his energy. Him and ‘Nat’ [Nathan Cleary] are a great combo. They’re so different but they work, and there’s a good opportunity to have those two guys together for a long time.”
Crichton shook hands on a three-year deal worth $500,000 a season last year, only to hold out for more money. He looks set to pocket in excess of $600,000 a season – good money for a second-year centre – while five-eighth Luai will bank around $700,000 a year.
Luai always imagined he would spend his entire career along side his friends at the foot of the mountains, but now knows that is impossible.
“I didn’t think it would have to be like this where people have to move on – I’m realising that now,” Luai told the Herald. “I understand it more now because it’s happening. If I had my way all the boys would stay together. Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way.
“Hopefully I’m not too far off [a new deal]. I want to stay here the rest of my career if I can. We’re all brothers on and off the field. I couldn’t see myself anywhere else. I’d love to get a good deal here in my own backyard and everyone is happy.”
The success of the Panthers has already seen James Tamou shift to the Wests Tigers, Josh Mansour join Souths and Zane Tetevano take up a deal with Leeds, while Dean Whare is bound for Catalans.
Even the slightest increase to a player’s wage causes a ripple effect through a club’s cap.
Luai, Crichton, Brian To’o, Moses Leota, Cleary, along with Spencer Leniu, among others, have all spent most of their careers at the foot of the mountains – and their off-field chemistry played a big part in their long march to last year’s grand final. You only had to see the way they danced around a boom box for lunchtime workers while waiting for a bus on Thursday.
Penrith must decide on their next skipper with Cleary, Isaah Yeo and even James Fisher-Harris in the mix to replace Tamou.
Luai liked Cleary or Yeo and said of the latter: “Isaah is a leader on and off the field, as soon as he talks everyone listens. We all look up to him.″
Christian covers rugby league for The Sydney Morning Herald.