Penrith’s Turuva talks a couple of weeks away: Cleary

Jasper Bruce |

The Panthers will open contract negotiations with Sunia Turuva “in a couple of weeks”.
The Panthers will open contract negotiations with Sunia Turuva “in a couple of weeks”.

Ivan Cleary believes none of his players have ever wanted to leave all-conquering Penrith, as the Panthers prepare to open contract negotiations with Sunia Turuva “in a couple of weeks”.

It comes as the coach reveals Nathan Cleary will miss Saturday’s clash with Wests Tigers through his hamstring injury and instead firms for a return against North Queensland next week.

The 2023 Dally M rookie of the year, Turuva is the latest player the triple reigning premiers will need to fight to squeeze under their salary cap as rivals begin to circle.

Turuva is without a deal beyond 2024 and has been linked with a move to St George Illawarra, who have ample cash to offer the 21-year-old a pay rise once Zac Lomax leaves next year.

Cleary said the Panthers were in no rush to open formal contract negotiations with the Fijian international.

“We’re aware of where we’re at in that sense, but we haven’t sat down and spoken about that yet. It’ll obviously come in the next couple of weeks,” he said.

“We’re just concerned about this week’s game. We love ‘Tito’, we’d love nothing more than to keep him here.

“I don’t want to think about him going anywhere or playing for anyone but us.”

The Panthers find themselves in familiar territory, fighting to fend off a club able to offer bigger money and possibly better opportunities, if not the guarantee of immediate on-field success.

Stephen Crichton, Matt Burton, Api Koroisau, and Viliame Kikau are among the premiership winners to have left in recent seasons on a similar brief, with Jarome Luai preparing to exit in 2025.

“It’s something that we just have to deal with each and every year,” Cleary said.

Turuva told AAP late last month that his deep connections with the playing group would make leaving a difficult proposition.

“I’ve been trying to tell them that for years and they all end up leaving,” Cleary quipped.

Ivan Cleary
Ivan Cleary believes none of his players have ever wanted to leave the all-conquering Panthers. (Mark Evans/AAP PHOTOS)

“I don’t think there’s one of them who didn’t want to stay, so that makes us feel good.

“If they do leave for more money or better opportunities for themselves and their families, we have to see that as a milestone or something good that we’ve been able to do.

“It’s why the cap’s there, it’s just harder and harder for us to deal with.”

Elsewhere, the Panthers have asked Taylan May for an explanation after he posted a video to his social media from inside a car speeding through suburban streets.

May, who is not thought to have been driving the car, has since deleted his Instagram, and Cleary is comfortable the situation has been handled.

“There’s no drama there,” the coach said.

Nathan Cleary returned to running training during the Panthers’ bye week, but needs more time with the team before he can return from the hamstring injury he suffered in round three.

“We’re still pretty hopeful for next week,” coach Cleary said.

“He’s going well, he’s probably just had a little more awareness (of the injury) than we thought at the start, based on the scans.”

Second-rower Scott Sorensen will return from his knee injury to face the Tigers.

AAP