- Stewart Moses
Panthers trio granted immediate releases
It may have been a bye week for Penrith, but it's been anything but quiet off the field as the Panthers in the space of four days, have confirmed the immediate release of Te Maire Martin, Peta Hiku and Samisoni Langi.
Te Maire Martin could play against his old club as early as this Saturday. Credit: 77 Media.
Te Maire Martin, who was under contract at the club until the end of 2018, has headed north to Townsville to take up a deal that will see him play in North Queensland Cowboy colors until the end of 2019.
The new deal is expected to allow Martin to be groomed as Johnathan Thurston's successor at five-eighth when he retires at the end of 2018.
With Martin's release unconditional, the irony is that the New Zealand five-eighth could play against his former club this Saturday should Thurston or his halves partner Michael Morgan fail to back up from next Wednesday night's Origin clash.
Previously linked with former club, Wests Tigers and the New Zealand Warriors, the announcement brings to an end constant speculation on Martin's future ever since his demotion from the first grade side in the wake of Penrith's 28-2 loss to Cronulla back in Round 7.
Having been initially replaced by Bryce Cartwright, the recent decision to switch Matt Moylan from fullback to five-eighth in the wake of Cartwright's long-term knee injury, effectively closed the door on any chance Martin had on adding to his 13 NRL appearances to date since making his match-winning debut for Penrith against the Broncos in Round 3, 2016.
But in announcing Martin's release Panthers Executive General Manager, Phil Gould AM had nothing but praise for Martin, who was under contract to the club until the end of 2018, expressing that this deal will provide Martin with a great opportunity to develop as a NRL player.
"Te Maire Martin is an outstanding young man, of impeccable character, and extremely popular with everyone at this club," Gould said.
"During his time here at Panthers, I could not fault Te Maire's honesty or integrity.
"He displayed a wonderful work ethic, constantly looking to improve his game.
"I know everyone at Panthers will be sorry to see Te Maire leave, however we understand his new club will provide a wonderful opportunity for his development as a NRL player."
Peta Hiku is set join to Warrington in the English Super League. Credit 77 Media.
The Panthers have also confirmed the immediate release of Peta Hiku, who is reported set to join English Super League club, Warrington Wolves until the end of 2019 .
With the return of both Dean Whare and Josh Mansour from serious knee injuries, coupled with the ongoing development of Waqa Blake and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Hiku, contracted to Penrith until the end of 2018, also found himself playing in the Intrust Super Premiership and faced uncertainty as to when he would add to his 20 NRL appearances as a Panther.
Phil Gould AM has confirmed that the emergence of young talent at Penrith coupled with a great offer from a UK club, are the main factors behind Hiku's early release.
"Peta is an international-class foorballer and has been an extremely popular member of our club," Gould said.
"Unfortunately with the emergence of several of our young players and the way our team has developed, we can't fit everyone in the team each week.
"From a salary cap perspective we always knew someone would probably have to move on.
"Peta received a great offer from a strong club in the UK and it presents a wonderful opportunity for Peta and his young family.
"We wish them well and sincerely thank Peta for his time here at the Panthers. He is always welcome at our club."
Hiku is set to be joined by another Panther in the English Super League with Samisoni Langi also granted an immediate release last Thursday.
The ex-Rooster and Rabbitoh, who joined the Panthers ahead of the 2017 season, was unable to force his way into the first grade side but showed plenty of commitment for the club's Intrust Super Premiership team and was returning from a season-ending ACL injury suffered during 2016.
The decision to release the trio will allow the club to retain the services of boom rookie back-rower Corey Harawira-Naera, as well as upgrade the contracts of other up-and-coming talents, headed by Dylan Edwards, with suggestions the club is already looking to upgrade and extend the fullback's contract to the end of 2020.