David Fifita in bombshell Panthers development as Titans contract drama takes fresh turn

The Panthers have reportedly offered David Fifita a multi-year $850,000 a season deal.

The Penrith Panthers have the means to target a premier NRL forward after James Fisher-Harris' exit at the end of the season wipes close to $1million off the club's payroll. And on Monday Penrith coach Ivan Cleary sent shockwaves through the NRL world by reportedly tabling a multi-year $850,000-a-season deal for Queensland State of Origin forward David Fifita.

The Panthers coach reportedly met with the Titans forward in Sydney on Sunday as Fifita weighs up his next move. The Panthers find themselves in an unusual situation with space in their salary cap for 2025, with close to $1million left after Fisher-Harris signed with the Warriors.

The Panthers have reportedly offered David Fifita a multi-year $850,000 a season deal. Image: Getty
The Panthers have reportedly offered David Fifita a multi-year $850,000 a season deal. Image: Getty

Fisher-Harris is one of a raft of players Penrith has lost in recent seasons with their back-to-back-to-back premiership wins creating somewhat of a salary cap squeeze. The likes of Spencer Leniu (Roosters), Stephen Crichton (Bulldogs), Jack Cogger (Knights) and Zac Hosking (Raiders) all left following Penrith's 2023 premiership triumph. Api Koroisau, Viliame Kikau, Matt Burton, Kurt Capewell, Wayde Egan and J'maine Hopgood have all left in recent years. And Jarome Luai and Sunia Turuva will both head out the door to the Wests Tigers next year.

And according to SMH on Monday, Sunday's Fifita talks have led to the Panthers tabling a $850,000 a season multi-year-deal for the star forward. Fifita is expected to make a decision on Penrith's offer in the next 48 hours, with his Titans deadline looming.

Fifita has until round 10 (8pm Thursday) to decide if he wants to activate the last two years of his contract and stay with the Titans until the end of 2026. That means Fifita has less than a week to inform the club if he'll be leaving at the end of the season. And the Titans are understood to be unaware that he met with the Panthers on his day off, creating more uncertainty about his future on the Gold Coast.

With the round 10 deadline looming to decide whether or not he will activate the last two years of his contract, Gold Coast coach Des Hasler says he hasn't spoken to the prop about his future. Heading into round nine, Hasler said his discussions with the 24-year-old haven't been about his future despite the looming deadline. "It's just the way the contract ... is structured," he said.

"We haven't discussed (the contract) at all. It's just been really focused on (playing against the Melbourne Storm), focused on getting that consistency and the runs on the board."

GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 20: David Fifita of the Titans celebrates a try during the round seven NRL match between Gold Coast Titans and Manly Sea Eagles at Cbus Super Stadium, on April 20, 2024, in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)
David Fifita is one of the premier NRL forwards.

Reports emerged last week that Melbourne halfback Jahrome Hughes and Wallabies play-maker Carter Gordon were persons of interest at the Titans. It was suggested Gordon's management met with the Titans but they were put off by his high asking price.

And on Thursday Hasler wouldn't speculate on any interest in either player. The Titans coach said he hadn't met with Gordon, and replied "We don't discuss contracts" when asked if club officials had.

He gave a similar answer when asked about Hughes - who is contracted with the Storm until the end of 2026. "We don't discuss contracts here, but he's still got two years to go so I can't go near that," Hasler said.

with AAP