Penrith’s recent premiership success is coming back to bite them with talented centre Stephen Crichton set to leave the club at the end of the 2023 season.

The Samoan international informed the Panthers on Monday that he had opted against extending his stay at the club.

Canterbury has been heavily linked with the 22-year-old, who has been a key component in a side which has won two premierships and reached another grand final in the last three seasons.

“Although Panthers is disappointed by the outcome, the club respects Stephen’s decision, and understands the situation is exacerbated by salary cap pressure based on the club’s recent success,” Panthers Rugby League CEO Matt Cameron said.

“The club thanks Stephen for his efforts and is looking forward to seeing him represent the Panthers for the remainder of the 2023 NRL season.”

The Panthers offered Crichton an extension in May of last year but the New South Wales Origin centre turned them down. 

While the Bulldogs are considered the current front-runners to land the 22-year-old, Crichton is sure to have no shortage of suitors from across the league. 

“It was the hardest decision to make, but now my full focus is on the 2023 season and finishing my time at Panthers as strong as I can,” Crichton said. 

“It’s going to be tough to leave my teammates, but we will have our chance to make more memories this year. I know my friendships at Panthers won’t finish here but will last forever.”

Crichton has played 76 matches for Penrith since debuting in 2019, playing and scoring a try in each of their three consecutive grand final appearances. 

He also played in all three Origin matches for New South Wales in their series loss last year and starred for Samoa during the World Cup.