Panthers preparing lifetime deal for teen star
Ending months of speculation, Penrith is ready to sign Stephen Crichton to a new three-year deal before then moving to retain the NSW superstar for the rest of his NRL playing career.
The Panthers will hold a retention committee meeting on Monday morning where the Crichton deal will be discussed and fast-tracked.
Crichton, 19, is under contract until the end of next year, with Penrith's new deal to take him off the market until after 2024.
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"He won't be going anywhere," declared Panthers group chief executive Brian Fletcher.
"Our negotiations will continue to finalise a deal where we see the young kid stay here hopefully for an extension of three years and then hopefully be a Panther for life.
"When you keep the right players, you want to make sure you've got them long-term.
"It will be further discussed on Monday morning. It's a matter of furthering the deal and then finalising a contract in the best interests of both parties.
"Stephen lives in the local area with Brian To'o and Jarome Luai. He will be a Panther, for sure. We have to look after the kid and we have to look after Penrith and we are confident all that will happen."
Asked did he fear Crichton could walk away from Penrith, Fletcher said: "No, not at all."
Penrith claim the delay and complication in negotiations has been through Crichton's decision to switch at the end of October from manager Mark Stewart to Ultra Management Sports' Sam Ayoub.
Panthers coach Ivan Cleary and general manager rugby league Matt Cameron have been in constant dialogue with Crichton and Ayoub.
There had been speculation that Canterbury and Sydney Roosters were monitoring the Crichton situation at Penrith.
"Nothing has changed from Penrith's point of view - the only thing that has changed was that the Crichton family wanted to change manager, which they have now done," Fletcher said.
"He is only 19-years-old. You have to respect the kid and let him play a couple of years of footy before you put too much responsibility onto him. You have to be careful you don't put the weight of the world on him and expect him to be a superstar every game - which he can't be at that age.
"Stephen has done exceptionally well for a 19-year-old.
"You can't do much better than what he has achieved.
"We are continuing our negotiations."
Penrith also continue to negotiate a contract extension for Matt Burton.
The Daily Telegraph understands Canterbury made further contact with Burton's manager David Riolo last week.
"It's the same story - we are in negotiations now to extend his contract," Fletcher said.
Originally published as Panthers preparing lifetime deal for teen star