Penrith have got their man, locking in centre Stephen Crichton on a two-year deal that will keep him at the club until the end of the 2023 NRL season.
The Panthers confirmed on Wednesday they had secured Crichton’s signature, fighting off several other clubs on a deal thought to be around $650,000 a season.
Jarome Luai is also expected to re-sign with the club in the near future, after the Panthers faced intense pressure to keep their rising young squad together.
Crichton only debuted last season for the Panthers but was a star in their run to the grand final, scoring 17 tries in 22 games.
“It’s really exciting to know I’m going to be at Panthers for the next three years,” Crichton said.
“This is my home. I’ve grown up in this club and built strong relationships with everyone here. I’ve never wanted to play anywhere else.
“To get the deal done before the season starts is massive and now I can focus on playing my best footy.”
The Panthers have at times in recent months looked set to pay the price for their success, with Crichton’s new pay day symbolic of how last year’s rise ballooned wages quicker than expected.
They made the move to release Josh Mansour after deciding he would not keep his starting spot on the wing this year.
Charlie Staines, Liam Martin, Isaah Yeo and now Crichton have all re-signed since last August, becoming far more expensive than when they signed their previous deals.
At one point midway through last year the Panthers had 19 players coming off contract at the end of 2021.
However that list is now down to just Kurt Capewell, Tyrone May, Brent Naden and Luai from those who played in last year’s grand final.
“(Stephen Crichton) is another example of a local junior we’ve developed into a NRL player, on the cusp of higher representative honours,” head of football Matt Cameron said.
“We take great pride in Stephen’s journey so far and consider it further validation of our club’s significant investment in junior development.”