NRL market watch: Stephen Crichton tells teammates he’s leaving Penrith Panthers

Penrith premiership star Stephen Crichton is one of the hottest players on the NRL open market and he dropped a bombshell on teammates at training this morning.

Penrith superstar Stephen Crichton will quit the club at the end of the season after breaking the news to his teammates on Monday.

The Daily Telegraph has learnt that Crichton told his Panthers teammates at training of his plans to move on at season’s end. It is unclear where the NSW and Samoan representative will play next year but Canterbury are in the box seat to land the 22-year-old.

Crichton will play out this season at the Panthers before leaving the club. The two parties had been locked in talks but were unable to agree on terms.

That will pave the way for Crichton to reunite with Panthers ex-assistant coach Cameron Ciraldo at Canterbury with the prospect of making the switch from centre to fullback.

The Panthers released a statement on Monday afternoon, confirming that Crichton would be “seeking opportunities elsewhere in 2024”.

“Although Panthers is disappointed by the outcome, the club respects Stephen’s decision, and understands the situation is exacerbated by salary cap pressure based on the club’s recent success,” Panthers rugby league CEO Matt Cameron said.

“The club thanks Stephen for his efforts and is looking forward to seeing him represent the Panthers for the remainder of the 2023 NRL season.”

Crichton said he was committed to finishing the year strongly with the Panthers.

“It was the hardest decision to make, but now my full focus is on the 2023 season and finishing my time at Panthers as strong as I can,” Crichton said.

“It’s going to be tough to leave my teammates, but we will have our chance to make more memories this year. I know my friendships at Panthers won’t finish here but will last forever.”

Crichton has been a revelation since making his NRL debut in 2019. He has been part of Penrith’s two premiership wins playing a key role in both results.

Crichton made his NSW and Samoan debut this year and was part of the Samoan World Cup side which lost to Australia in the final.

The Panthers prioritised teammates Brian To’o, Liam Martin, Izack Tago and Taylan May in recent months.

The Crichton revelation comes just days after Penrith moved to safeguard their future by re-signing four of their most promising juniors.

The two-time premiers on Friday revealed contract extensions for playmaker Jack Cole, fullback Isaiah Iongi, winger Jesse McLean and second-rower Harrison Hassett.

All four re-signed until the end of the 2025 season.

Queensland junior sensation Iongi is seen as the long-term fullback replacement for Clive Churchill medallist Dylan Edwards.

Originally published as NRL market watch: Stephen Crichton tells teammates he’s leaving Penrith Panthers

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