My Thoughts On Luke Lewis Asking For A Release From His Contract

Luke Lewis has asked for, and received an early release from his contract at the Penrith Panthers sighting a desire for a new challenge at another club. Lewis is a local junior and has played for the Panthers for 11 years. He was stripped of the club captaincy earlier this year in a move that many feel was the catalyst for todays announcement.

It is interesting to see how the announcement has been received.

You have people that want to blame Phil Gould and claim he is destroying this club. This is a really stupid and ill-informed opinion. I am Penrith’s biggest critic and I can tell you the club is moving in the right direction. We have real depth in the juniors and we have bought a few decent players for next year. It was always going to be a case of breaking the clubs down a little to build it back up. Honestly, its been less painful than I thought it would have to be.

Some are attacking Lewis, and I can see their point of view to a certain extent. He is talking about wanting a challenge, but helping to rebuild Penrith is about as good of a challenge as you will find. He is walking out on a contract at the club, and its just lucky really that the Panthers are more than happy to free up that salary cap space because otherwise things could have been very messy.

You have to look at where Lewis is at career wise though.

Lewis turns 29 in August. If he plays out the remaining two years of his deal, he will be very well paid. However by the end of that deal he will be 31 years old. Take a look around the competition at how many 31 year old back rowers are running around….there’s hardly any of them. The end of his career isn’t that far away.

Lewis can play out the final two years and probably get a much more modest contract when he is 31 years old elsewhere. Keeping in mind though two years are probably going to be in a struggling Penrith side. The alternative is to look to sign a three year contract with another club right now, while he is in his prime. Then once that deal is over, as a 32 year old, if he wants to play on he can.

Choosing the latter option, Lewis will actually make more money out of the end of his career and he can probably do it while playing for a team that is contending for a Premiership. When you look at it like that, he is making the right career move.

The Panthers now find themselves with a fair chunk of salary cap space available. I wouldn’t expect any spectacular signings but hey, it is a move in the right direction. Yes we are losing a talented back rower, but he was on a lot of money and this is a competition where great forwards are a lot easier to find than great backs.

In one move, the crushing salary cap pressure the Panthers were under has been somewhat relieved. Keep in mind the Panthers are at the bottom of the ladder, it is not like we are breaking up a winning side here. We need to rebuild either way, and moves like this need to happen otherwise we will just struggle along trapped in salary cap hell and wondering why nothing is being done to change things.

I don’t subscribe to the media line that there are issues among the Panthers playing squad. There are some hacks in the media that are openly campaigning against Phil Gould having any sort of success at the club. These people should just stick to writing articles about the top ten hair styles in the NRL while stealing a wage.

The Panthers side we see running out there this season is a symptom of terrible mismanagement by the previous administration and the previous coaching staff. Gould and Cleary have stepped into a terrible situation in 2012 and they have just had to try and make the best of it.

We signed a bunch of NSW Cup quality players because that is all we could afford. We have at times not been able to play some of our junior players because we just haven’t been able to afford to under the cap. These aren’t problems Phil Gould created, these are problems he found himself having to work around thanks to the previous poor management.

Gould, looking to the future, has signed Sika Manu, Lewis Brown, James Segeyaro and Dean Whare for the 2013 season. Not surperstars, but you can see the addition of quality thats there. On top of that we have locked up promising youngsters Blake Austin and Harry Siejka, who are as good of a young halves pairing as you could possibly find. We don’t even have to blood them ahead of time either as Luke Walsh is locked up too!

Lachlan Coote, who has come on in leaps and bounds this season, is under lock and key as is Tim Grant. All in all, you can see the additions that are being made and the depth the clubs is building. Now on top of all of that, we have some freedom to do a few things under the salary cap!

Luke Lewis wanted to move on and the Penrith Panthers wanted to free up salary cap space. Both sides got what they wanted. Sure it is not great to see a local junior leave the club. Lewis really should have been a one club player, but hey, thats not what he wanted, and thats fair enough.

Panthers fans need to keep the faith though. Becoming competitive again is a long term goal.

We are going in the right direction.

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