Panthers can keep Luai after Edwards' pay rise: Cleary

Ivan Cleary has confirmed signing Dylan Edwards to a rich, long-term contract extension will not impact Penrith's ability to offer star five-eighth Jarome Luai a new deal.

Brisbane's loss to Melbourne on Thursday night puts the NRL minor premiership back on the table for the Panthers, but their coach insists that will not change any selection plans ahead of the clash with North Queensland.

Edwards' years of hard work were rewarded on Wednesday with a four-year contract extension that ties him to the club longer than any of his teammates.

The fullback was as valuable as anyone to Penrith's back-to-back premierships and would have commanded big money had he chosen to negotiate with rivals for the 2025 season and beyond.

Instead, the Panthers have rewarded him with a hefty pay rise to an estimated $850,000 per year, putting him on a par with the likes of Ryan Papenhuyzen and Joey Manu.

Penrith have been resigned to losing key players to cashed-up challengers amid four years of sustained success.

Even though the similarly important Luai comes off contract at the end of 2024, the same year Edwards' old deal expires, Penrith remain confident the fullback's pay rise won't push Luai out the door.

"We still feel that way," Cleary said.

"Each one's difficult because obviously the values go up and they've got families to consider and all that.

"But we feel confident that we can offer Romey what he's worth. We feel that he, like Dylan, is a Panther. He belongs here. I think he knows it and we know it."

Sidelined with a dislocated shoulder, Luai will miss Saturday's home game against the Cowboys.

The Broncos' loss to the Storm means that with a win, the Panthers will climb atop the ladder and seal the minor premiership.

Penrith have been resting players throughout the past month in preparation for the finals, but will go close to full strength on Saturday night with only hooker Mitch Kenny set to sit out.

"The fact that (the minor premiership) is back on table is quite cool," Cleary said.

"There's something about finishing at the top that you should be proud of.

"(But) I don't like to change things halfway through a week. It hasn't changed anything for us."

North Queensland must beat the Panthers to have any chance of playing finals but Cleary was confident they would be facing a better Penrith side to the one handily beaten by Parramatta last week.

"It was out of character," Cleary said of the 32-18 loss.

"I don't think we were prepared well enough and that's on me, for a number of reasons. I think we'll be much better tomorrow.

"We're still preparing to be at our best when the pressure's on. I don't think we're there yet."

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