June 24, 2024

Coach Ivan Cleary of the Penrith Panthers has expressed concern over the continuous departure of Penrith juniors from the club, prompting him to advocate for compensation from the NRL for their efforts in developing these players, many of whom are now scattered across the league.

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In their bid to strengthen their roster, Cleary and the Panthers have expressed interest in recruiting Gold Coast Titans star David Fifita. However, they face stiff competition from several Sydney clubs, all vying to secure Fifita’s services with lucrative offers.

The Panthers, who have secured three premierships in recent years, are in need of a replacement for formidable forward James Fisher-Harris, who is set to return to New Zealand in 2025. His departure is just one in a series of exits following the club’s recent success.

Among the departed players is Stephen Crichton, whom Cleary and the Panthers will face off against this week for the first time since his move to the Bulldogs.

Crichton is among a group of 11 players who have departed the Panthers after experiencing success in grand finals over the past three seasons. This number is set to increase to 14 next year with the impending departures of Jarome Luai, Sunia Turuva, and Fisher-Harris.

Coach Cleary acknowledges that this turnover is an inevitable consequence of success. However, given the significant number of departures, he believes there should be measures in place to ensure that clubs like the Panthers are not unduly disadvantaged or, at the very least, recognized for their role in developing players who attract interest from other clubs.

“In my heart, I would love all those boys to still be playing here, but we’d have about three teams then, so you can’t do it,” Cleary remarked.

“I think we should receive some form of dispensation, particularly in terms of development. We invest a lot in developing players here, only to see them move elsewhere. Therefore, I believe we should receive greater support from the NRL in this area, separate from the salary cap considerations.”

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“However, it’s challenging to argue against the current system and how it operates. But I do think there should be some form of compensation for the significant number of players we’ve developed who have gone on to achieve success throughout the league.”

Cleary’s own family has been affected by this player drain, with his son Jett recently being recruited by the Warriors.

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