SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 20: Viliame Kikau of the Panthers makes a break during the round two NRL match between the Canterbury Bulldogs and the Penrith Panthers at Bankwest Stadium, on March 20, 2021, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
The will he or won’t he saga of Viliame Kikau’s future at the Penrith Panthers seems anything but approaching the finish line.
With November 1 just days away, and Kikau officially allowed to negotiate with other clubs for 2023 and beyond from that date, the Panthers are still yet to lock up their brutal edge second-rower.
The Panthers are facing something of a contract crunch, and it has long been thought that at least one of Kikau, Apisai Koroisau or Dylan Edwards will have to leave the club at the end of 2022 in an effort to keep the bulk of the 2021 premiership-winning squad together.
It comes following the big retentions of James Fisher-Harris, Moses Leota and Stephen Crichton among others, while Nathan Cleary is on a mega deal to be at the club for years to come.
That all means that, despite CEO Brian Fletcher’s claim that Edwards, Koroisau and Kikau would all re-sign with the club in the coming months, that the Panthers may have to drop one of the trio.
Edwards has previously been linked with the Redcliffe Dolphins, while Kikau has been linked with everything from the St George Illawarra Dragons to a trip overseas and a switch to rugby union.
The Australian’s Brent Read has told Triple M Radio that the North Queensland Cowboys are in the bos seat to secure Kikau’s signature.
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“Viliame Kikau is one of the November 1 guys entering the last year of his deal,” Read said.
“Penrith have tried to get a deal done before November 1, but it is not going to happen.
“He will go to market and I think the North Queensland Cowboys are the club that are taking a good hard look at Viliame Kikau.
“He was obviously up there at one point during his career. He knows the club and I believe his partner is from up there as well.
“For me the Cowboys are in the box seat to land Viliame Kikau from Monday because they are desperate for an edge back-rower.
“It is a position they really lack and it will depend on money. It will depend on how much money Viliame wants.
“I think they will go to a certain price level and I don’t think they will go beyond it, but it will be a healthy offer. So I believe they are the team to look out for with Viliame Kikau.”
While the Cowboys have a number of excellent up and comers who can play on the edge, including Jeremiah Nanai and Ben Condon, alongside the established Mitchell Dunn, the club struggled in both attack and defence on the edge throughout 2021, and a signing like Kikau would only help youngsters in the system improve.
Kikau is off-contract at the Panthers from the end of the 2022 season.