Penrith have left the door open for Jamie Soward to begin his NRL coaching career at the club after announcing his immediate release to the London Broncos.
Penrith supremo Phil Gould on Thursday paid tribute to the 31-year-old, who was labelled as the club’s marquee signing when he moved to the foot of the mountains ahead of the 2014 season.
However, his demotion to reserve grade in round 13, coupled with rookie Nathan Cleary’s stunning ascension to the top grade, clouded Soward’s future at the club.
Fellow first-year playmaker Te Maire Martin is also considered a player of the future after making his debut in round three before succumbing to a shoulder injury. He is expected back in three weeks.
“Jamie feels the time is now right to pursue an opportunity to finish his career in England,” Gould said in a club statement.
“How playing careers begin and end is not an exact science but he has recognised there are a number of emerging talents at the club who deserve the chance to progress.
“Jamie has been wonderful for the Panthers and has done everything we have ever asked of him. He has been a leader, on and off the field, and played a key role in the development of our younger players.”
Soward is likely to have made his final appearance in the NRL, where he played 224 games across three clubs in 12 seasons since making his debut in 2005.
However, Gould hinted the former NSW State of Origin representative would be back in Penrith colours as a coach following his stint in England.
“If Jamie sees a future for himself in coaching, once his playing days have come to an end, it is my intention that he will begin that coaching career here at the Panthers,” Gould said.
Soward thanked the club for giving him another opportunity in the NRL.
“@PenrithPanthers thanks for the memories. Thanks for having me. #panthergang. Gonna miss the boys and fans but I will be back. #533,” Soward tweeted.
It will be Soward’s second stint with the Broncos in three years, having played nine games with the English club back in 2014 following his inglorious mid-season exit from St George Illawarra.
It was at Wollongong where Soward established himself in the NRL, scoring 977 points in 140 games in the Red V, including a 2011 premiership win under master coach Wayne Bennett.
However, a falling out with then-coach Steve Price pushed Soward out of the Dragons, moving on to England before taking a three-year deal at the rebuilding Panthers.
Regarded as owning the best kicking game on his day, Soward finishes with a total 1337 points in the NRL, and also played three games in 2011 for NSW in 2011.