Stephen Crichton has informed teammates and the club he will not be renewing his contract with Penrith beyond the 2023 season.
The star outside back is due to come off contract at the end of this year and his future has been the subject of significant speculation.
It’s now been confirmed by the Panthers that the 22-year-old will be departing the club at season’s end.
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Penrith CEO Matt Cameron commented on Crichton’s decision on Monday.
“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,” 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.”
In a statement released by Penrith, the club insisted a “substantial offer” was made to Crichton in May of last year but an agreement could not be reached.
Crichton has played 76 first-grade games for the Panthers since making his debut in 2019.
Along the way, he’s scored 41 tries, played three times for New South Wales, won two premierships and been capped six times for Samoa.
Speaking following Monday’s news, Crichton described the difficult call he had to make.
“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’s departure will continue a slight changing of the guard at the foot of the mountains as the back-to-back premiers face the challenges associated with retaining such a talented squad.
Viliame Kikau, Api Koroisau, Charlie Staines and Sean O’Sullivan won’t be at the club this year after featuring in the 2022 grand final victory.
Penrith get their title defence underway at home to the Broncos on March 3.