Star centre Jamal Idris is a huge signing for the Panthers in 2014. Credit: NRL Photos Copyright: NRL Photos
The Titans' crisis in the outside backs has plunged to new depths with the confirmation that giant centre Jamal Idris has been released from the final three years of his contract to join the Panthers on a three-year deal effective immediately.
With Storm recruit Maurice Blair expected to appear before Southport Magistrates Court this afternoon - his legal team asked for it to be changed from Maryborough - following an incident on New Year's eve and boom youngster Hymel Hunt joining the Storm in the off-season, the departure of the side's most potent strike weapon leaves coach John Cartwright with a sizeable headache just eight weeks before the start of the 2014 season.
Panthers centre Brad Tighe will now join the Titans in something resembling a transaction from a January transfer window but replacing the former Origin and Test star will be more than a one-man job.
Media were told yesterday that Idris had missed the first training session of the year due to illness but it is now apparent that he had been struck down with a severe case of homesickness, the club granting his release on compassionate grounds.
"We are dealing with people's lives and at times, we have to put the best interests of people first," said Titans CEO Graham Annesley in a statement made by the club.
"Jamal has a really close relationship with his family and we respect his desire to spend more time with them in Sydney.
"Jamal has been great on and off the field during his time at the Titans and while we're disappointed to see him go we fully understand and appreciate his personal circumstances."
The move for family reasons somewhat flies in the face of comments made by Idris prior to Christmas, who was excited about spending time with his brother Isaac Simon and his new baby daughter in Brisbane.
At that time Idris indicated that his mother, Alana Simon, would be a more regular visitor to south-east Queensland to spend time with her granddaughter but it appears her health has been a major factor in Idris's decision.
"For personal reasons, I have decided it would be best to be closer to my family as my mum has been ill for the past year and it’s been difficult living interstate," Idris said.
"I wish the club all the best and am looking forward to the opportunity with the Panthers."
Former Titans managing director Michael Searle said at the time of securing Idris on a five-year deal in 2012 that his signing was "an important step in the planning for the future of the club".
Those plans will now have to be redrawn as Idris heads for western Sydney having played 35 games for the club.
While it leaves the Titans in somewhat of disarray, the Panthers are heralding the arrival of another high-profile addition in what has been a productive recruitment campaign.
Representative stars Jamie Soward, Elijah Taylor, Brent Kite and Peter Wallace have all signed on to play for the Panthers from 2014 and club general manager Phil Gould is understandably thrilled at the Idris coup.
"I admire the way the [Titans] and this player have resolved the situation. And for Panthers, it is a major coup to recruit a player of such a high profile and tremendous ability," Gould said.
"Jamal will be a wonderful acquisition for Penrith, both on and off the field."