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Panthers forward Leilani Latu has strongly denied claims he will seek an early release to depart the club at the end of the season.

Speculation was ripe last week the 24-year-old was unhappy at the foot of the mountains despite agreeing to a new three-year extension last July. 

Panthers teammate Tyrone Peachey was also mentioned in the report as another player who was looking to move on after limited game time this season. 

A bemused Latu told the rumours were wide of the mark. 

"I found out before I went to New Zealand from my teammates and as soon as I read the link I contacted my manager and spoke to Gus (Panthers General Manager Phil Gould) about it," he said.  

"As soon as I knew I was safe and those rumours weren't true at all I haven't looked any further in it. It certainly isn't my intention to go anywhere. 

"The funny thing is like when I was in New Zealand I had a fan come up to me and say see you next year and I had to tell him it wasn't happening. 

"And I also noticed Fox Sports put me in Newcastle's 2018 team. My wife showed me that and I just thought 'what's going on here?'"


Latu admitted he understood why the rumours might have started after less time spent on the field this season. 

In 2016 the Tongan international averaged 46 minutes per game but that number has since decreased to 34 after the addition of former Australian international James Tamou in the Panthers' front row. 

"I'm sure there are a lot of theories to the rumour but to compare from last year to now is tough because it's a different team," Latu said. 

"Fortunately there are less injuries now to when 'Peach' and I were required to play bigger minutes last year. 

"[Panthers coach Anthony Griffin] spoke to us from the beginning and said it was going to be very hard to make the top 17 and if we did we'd likely get limited minutes so in that time we have to perform at our best.

"Whether it's been 25-40 minutes for Peach or myself we've just tried to go out there and add that momentum for the side."

Latu said he felt indebted to the club after admitting he almost walked away from rugby league at 20 years of age.

It was Gould who kept him in the game. 

"I love this club and they threw me a lifeline," Latu said.

"There was a time where I wasn't sure I wanted to play football ever again and Gus was the first man to ring me.

"They've given me security, they helped me buy a house and get my life back together when it was at a crossroads.

"I played all my junior footy at Canterbury and once I did my shoulder they let me go, so I'm forever fortunate Penrith took a chance on me and picked me up.

"I'm signed here until 2020 and plan to stay for as long as possible."

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Acknowledgement of Country

Penrith Panthers players and staff respect and honour the traditional custodians of the land and pay our respects to their elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.