Cleary coy as Panthers circle Fifita

David Fifita. Photo: NRL Images.
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Penrith coach Ivan Cleary has refused to discuss the club’s potential signing of Gold Coast forward David Fifita, but admits his side was always looking to “evolve”.

The Panthers have reportedly tabled 24-year-old Fifita an offer to join the club from next season.

Fifita has an option in his favour at the Titans next year and needs to inform the club of his intentions by Thursday.

It is understood he has met with Penrith and at least one other Sydney club.

Today, Cleary said he had spoken enough about recruitment in 2024.

“It’s a very sensitive issue, all recruitment, and it affects a lot of people – clubs, players, agents, families, and I think we’ve already filled our quota for recruitment stories this year,” he said.

Panthers coach Ivan Cleary. Photo: Melinda Jane.

“We’re always looking to evolve, that’s the challenge when you’re losing players. If you’re just staying the same the game will go past you. We’re always looking to evolve but if you do that there’s always a danger you can lose what you’re good at too, so that’s been a balance.”

Panthers Rugby League CEO Matt Cameron certainly didn’t deny the club’s interest in Fifita.

“I wouldn’t be doing my job properly unless I investigated every option that was available to the club moving forward,” he said.

“If David’s services are available for the 2025 season, it would be remiss of us not to look at him.”

David Fifita in action against the Titans. Photo: NRL Photos.

An interesting factor in Fifita’s potential signing involves his partner, Shaylee Bent. She plays for the Titans in the NRLW but was born in Penrith and is a Glenmore Park Brumbies Junior.

The former Dragons Player of the Year is off-contract at the Titans at the end of the season, opening up a possible return to Sydney.

There is general acceptance that while Penrith won’t have the most financially lucrative offer on the table for Fifita, they could be the most attractive club in terms of development and Premiership potential.

The Panthers have plenty of room in their salary cap following the decision to release James Fisher-Harris at the end of the year on personal grounds, and the upcoming departures of Jarome Luai and Sunia Turuva.

Troy Dodds

Troy Dodds is the Weekender's Managing Editor and Breaking News Reporter. He has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working with some of Australia's leading media organisations. In 2023, he was named Editor of the Year at the Mumbrella Publish Awards.

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