NRL news 2023 | Penrith Panthers star Stephen Crichton signs with Canterbury Bulldogs

The Bulldogs have confirmed the signing of Stephen Crichton on a lucrative four-year deal starting in 2024.

Crichton has been widely expected to sign with Canterbury after the Panthers went public with a statement confirming that he would be moving on at the end of this season and the NRL’s worst kept secret became a reality on Saturday when the Bulldogs sent out a statement.

Canterbury took the unusual step of sending out a player signing statement without any quotes from the player, new coach Cameron Ciraldo or football boss Phil Gould.

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It simply stated that the deal had been done, adding: “Out of respect to both Stephen and the Penrith Panthers, the club will make no further comment until he joins us at the end of the 2023 season.”

However, it’s no secret that Gould has a huge opinion of the 22-year-old, and has said as much as recently as Tuesday when the whispers were strong that a deal was being done.

The Crichton signing is a massive coup for Gould and Ciraldo as the new power couple attempts to lift the famous club out of the outhouse and back into the penthouse.

Having gone through two full-time coaches in five years since the ugly split with Des Hasler in 2017, the Bulldogs have plunged from one crisis to the next, with salary cap issues crippling the club throughout that period.

That time now looks at an end, with Matt Burton’s recent decision to commit himself long-term to Belmore the first sign from a roster point-of-view that the Bulldogs had stabilised and could look forward to a bright future.

Crichton will join a club that will have realistic visions of cementing a place in the top eight for a sustained period of success, with the 2024 roster set to include Burton in the halves, Origin hooker in the making Reed Mahoney, the lethal finishing of Josh Addo-Carr on a wing, and a formidable looking forward pack headlined by Viliame Kikau, Tevita Pangai Jnr, Ryan Sutton and enforcer Raymond Faitala-Mariner.

Add to that the huge potential of strike centre Bronson Xerri, who will return from a four-year doping ban with the Bulldogs in 2024 and the only piece missing appears to be a halfback.

Having won two premierships as a centre for the Panthers, Crichton is expected to make the permanent transition to fullback at Belmore, putting the icing on a backline that will have alarm bells ringing for the rest of the competition.

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