Cashed-up Panthers’ $600k spending spree
PENRITH are cashed up and ready to prey on the NRL's biggest names.
Following months of shedding players, the Panthers have $600,000 in their salary cap for next season - the most of any Sydney club - and are ready to swoop on a five-eighth, centre or front-rower.
Players who are coming off contract, homesick, hate the coach, or are disgruntled or disillusioned, Penrith are monitoring the situation, more than aware rival clubs will be forced to shed players in coming weeks through NRL off-season salary cap audits.
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While most big-name stars are locked down for 2020, players like Wests Tigers utility Ryan Matterson are expected to change clubs over the summer.
The Panthers have cash available as they rebuild Phil Gould's rebuild. moving on seven star players over the past 12 months - Reagan Campbell-Gillard, James Maloney, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Wayde Egan, Corey Harawira-Naera, Waqa Blake and Christian Crichton.
And Penrith could have more to spend had the club not been forced supplement payments for some of these players at rival clubs.
Even a rival NRL recruitment manager admitted "$600,000 is a lot to have" at this time of year.
Some of rugby league's finest come off contract after next season but are free to negotiate with rivals clubs from November 1.
"There will be clubs that have salary cap issues so Penrith will wait and see what lands. Penrith has a few dollars in the bank," a source close to the Panthers said. "The club will wait until November 1 and see what comes on the market.
"It is now just a matter of wait and see. The club isn't in a rush but if they find someone that suits, then okay. The club certainly has plenty of flexibility in their salary cap so let's see what happens in November."
The Panthers have denied they want to sign Sydney Roosters prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and refused to confirm rumours Cronulla's Matt Moylan may return to the foot of the mountains as part of the Sharks' bid to create salary cap room.
Penrith have discussed signing Melbourne Christian Welch but interest has waned since the forward suffered another knee injury.
The club unsuccessfully tried to sign Brisbane's Alex Glenn, who is remaining with the Broncos.
"But there is only so long you can hold onto the money," said one NRL coach.
St George Illawarra meanwhile have six spots left for 2020 but each are lower-end players chasing around $110,000, the minimum wage.
Souths would clearly have money should Sam Burgess be medically retired while the Cowboys have at least $800,000 in the bank should fullback Val Holmes come home from New York.
Should Holmes stay, North Queensland would be then be aggressive in the open market, as could New Zealand Warriors.
Canterbury will have plenty of money in their salary cap after next season, as will Wests Tigers and Parramatta.
Grand finalists Canberra have around $200,000 remaining in their cap for 2020 although Manly are tight given the club is shortly expected to re-sign the Trbojevic brothers, Jake and Tom.