He was described by Phil Gould as a “marquee” signing when first snapped up by the Penrith Panthers ahead of the 2014 season, but Jamie Soward’s ride at the club has ended in frustration – and in reserve grade.
Penrith this afternoon confirmed that Soward would be immediately released from his contract.
The 31-year-old played 53 games for the Panthers. He will take up an offer in the English Super League to play with the London Broncos.
Soward has spent the last few weeks in reserve grade after being dumped by coach Anthony Griffin following Penrith’s 24-6 loss to Melbourne.
Speaking on NRL360 tonight, still decked out in Penrith colours, Soward said he thought he’d had a consistent season prior to being dropped to reserve grade after the Storm game.
“After the Melbourne game, Hook (Anthony Griffin) decided to go a different direction and play a couple of the young guys and they’ve been great,” he said.
“I think it just came my time to step aside and let the younger guys continue the culture out there now.”
Soward said it was going to be difficult to get back into the team from reserve grade.
“Hook is black and white so if he wants something done he’s going to tell you how he wants it done and you’ve got to be able to perform to that,” he said.
“For me as far as I’m concerned I’ve left the club on great terms. I really enjoyed working with that playing group and also the people behind the scenes and I see myself coming back there and either coaching or being part of that Panthers brand one day.”
Earlier today, Mr Gould said it was totally Soward’s decision to move on.
“Jamie feels the time is now right to pursue an opportunity to finish his career in England,” Mr Gould said.
“How playing careers begin and end is not an exact science but he has recognised there are a number of emerging talents at the club who deserve the chance to progress.”
Mr Gould paid tribute to Soward and his time with the Panthers.
“Jamie has been wonderful for the Panthers and has done everything we have ever asked of him. He has been a leader, on and off the field, and played a key role in the development of our younger players,” he said.
“If Jamie sees a future for himself in coaching, once his playing days have come to an end, it is my intention that he will begin that coaching career here at the Panthers.”
Panthers CEO Rugby League Corey Payne, who played alongside Soward at the St George-Illawarra Dragons, echoed Gould’s sentiments.
“Jamie has been a great servant to this club and to rugby league in Australia,” he said.
“I wish him all the best with his future endeavours and want him to know he will always be welcome at the Panthers.”
It is believed he informed teammates yesterday that it was likely he’d take up the chance to play in England again.
On Twitter, he said this morning: “Well that escalated quickly”.
This will be Soward’s second stint in England after playing nine games for the London Broncos in 2013. He spent the bulk of his time in the NRL at the Dragons where he made a total of 140 first grade appearances.
Troy Dodds is the Weekender’s Managing Editor and Senior Writer. He has more than 15 years experience as a journalist, working with some of Australia’s leading media organisations.