Panthers allow Kiwi skipper to negotiate with other teams
DALLIN Watene-Zelezniak has been given permission by the Penrith Panthers to speak to rival clubs, but his looming departure won't solve the club's salary cap crisis.
The Panthers confirmed on Wednesday that Watene-Zelezniak's management had sought clearance for the flyer to negotiate with other teams.
The Kiwi skipper has asked for an immediate release despite having a season to run on his contract.
As reported in Wednesday's The Daily Telegraph, Watene-Zelezniak's future at the Panthers is in doubt with the club shopping him to rivals Parramatta.
The Eels have room under the salary cap to accommodate the Kiwi back before June 30 should he receive a release from Penrith.
It's understood the North Queensland Cowboys have also expressed interest in his services.
Penrith have been frantically attempting to move players such as Watene-Zelezniak to clear space in their salary cap. The club has a whopping 13 players under contract for at least another two years, among them some of their most costly commodities.
Headlined by Nathan Cleary, the club also has long-term deals with Waqa Blake, Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Wayde Egan, James Fisher-Harris, Jack Hetherington, Jarome Luai, Viliame Kikau, Liam Martin, Josh Mansour, Dean Whare and Isaah Yeo.
A conservative estimate would suggest those 12 players would be chewing up more than $5 million of the salary cap. It could be more. Much more.
That leaves about $4 million for the remaining 18 players they are required to have on their roster by June 30. What they have is what they have got, not just for next season but beyond.
Even if the Panthers manage to move Watene-Zelezniak, they will be forced to chip in a reasonable chunk of his salary given suggestions his contract pays him in excess of $700,000 next season.
As good as he is, no one will pay that for Watene-Zelezniak even if he ends up at fullback somewhere.
Mansour has lobbed on the radar of some clubs. James Maloney, off contract at the end of next season, has been regularly linked with an early move to England.
Dylan Edwards, another off contract at the end of next season and once touted as the club's long-term No.1, has been made available.
The Panthers are in freefall and their response has been a free-for-all. Against that backdrop, coach Ivan Cleary is attempting to inject some belief in a squad that has been miles off the pace over the opening 10 rounds.
News that Watene-Zelezniak wants a release cameras he was dropped from both the Panthers' NRL and Canterbury Cup teams due to form.
The 23-year-old has produced reasonable form in his 10 games so far this season with one try and 1202 running metres.
But coach Cleary has decided to omit the Hamilton-born flyer from all grades following last week's 30-10 loss to the New Zealand Warriors.
Interestingly, he will join his brother Malakai Watene-Zelezniak on the sidelines this weekend.
Malakai, who isn't off-contract until the end of the 2020 season, also isn't playing in the NRL or the NSW Canterbury Cup ranks.
Due to a rib injury, he hasn't played first grade since Penrith's 30-12 loss to Canberra in round eight.
It's understood Malakai has fielded offers to play in the English Super League.