Panthers supremo Brian Fletcher has set the record straight around off-contract stars Api Koroisau and Villiame Kikau and is adamant both players will remain at Penrith next season.
NSW Origin player Korisau and game-breaking backrower Kikau are both off contract with the premiers at the end of 2022 with rival clubs currently open to table offers for 2023 and beyond.
Panthers CEO Fletcher told Fox Sports the premiers still view Koroisau and Kikau as vital members of Penrith’s premiership-winning roster and the club has no plans to release them early.
“From our point of view it’s similar to the Matt Burton situation from last season – they’ve both got contracts with Penrith for next year and we see them as important members of our squad,” Fletcher said.
“The other clubs can all come in and offer them whatever for 2023 and beyond but they’ll be at Penrith next year.
“We’re happy to have both of them as part of our club and we’ll continue working through the negotiating process beyond that.
“There’s no rush, we’ve got them both under contract for 2022.”
Like all clubs who win a premiership, the Panthers will be feeling a salary cap squeeze.
The Wests Tigers have signalled an interest in signing Koroisau but are pushing for the Blues Origin player to be released a year early so he can switch to the Concord-based club in 2022.
The Tigers are also cashed-up with a $1.2 million war chest for 2022.
Korisau won a premiership under Wests Tigers coach Michael Maguire at South Sydney in 2014 and the pair remain close.
The Panthers hooker also enjoys a close rapport with Penrith coach Ivan Cleary.
Which is where it gets interesting. Penrith and the Tigers have been sworn enemies ever since Cleary walked out on Wests Tigers at the end of 2018.
So the Panthers will be in no mood to show the Tigers any sort of favour by releasing Korisau a year early.
North Queensland Cowboys have also gone on the record signalling an intent to make a major play for Kikau for 2023.
The Panthers famously went to war with the Bulldogs over the signature of Matt Burton earlier this year and dug their heels in.
Burton ended up being a key member of the Panthers premiership-winning roster playing primarily in the unfamiliar position of left centre.
The Panthers have already seen Burton and Tyrone May move on from the grand final victory over South Sydney.