Untimely injury may end Mansour's time at Panthers
A potential season-ending injury couldn't have come at a worse time for Josh Mansour as he weighs up his future beyond 2018, but perhaps there is a silver lining for Penrith fans.
NRL.com understands the Panthers were almost resigned to being without the fan favourite after this season, with the Test winger making no secret of his desire to look after his family in deciding where to play in 2019 and beyond.
At the start of the year, the Panthers indicated they wanted to keep him, discussing a potential deal to keep him long term.
But Mansour decided to back his own ability and let his football throughout 2018 drive up his price tag. You can't blame him for doing so.
After all, he was returning from a successful World Cup campaign with the Kangaroos and was in line to make a return to the Holden State of Origin arena with the NSW Blues if he could produce a strong start to the year.
Unfortunately for the 27-year-old, that's now dead in the water after he suffered up to five facial fractures in last week's win over Gold Coast. Mansour will undergo surgery next week to begin repairing the damage that has left his face almost unrecognisable.
His season is virtually over. At best he will return for the final eight games of the season. But the club is bracing for the worst, which means he may have played his final game for the Panthers after seven years at the club.
There is a feeling from Mansour's management that he is worth up to $600,000 a season. That perhaps a club like Parramatta, who had lost Semi Radradra to French rugby, would be on the lookout for a replacement.
It made sense, especially when you consider Eels centre Michael Jennings is one of Mansour's closest friends. However, Parramatta, nor any other club for that matter, have shown a willingness to pay over half a million dollars per season for him. That may have changed if he didn't get injured.
But it now seems highly unlikely given his unfortunate predicament.
Penrith aren't willing to fork out such a substantial amount for a winger, regardless of how effective he is in getting his side's sets started, especially when they feel rookie Christian Crichton is holding his own in his debut season on the minimum wage.
The Panthers haven't completely filled their roster for 2019 and beyond, and want to keep Mansour.
But it's going to have to be at around $350,000-$400,000 a season, well below what he had been hoping to receive.
The reality is, he has missed out on a potential $100,000 pay day for playing in the Origin arena this year, but the toll of the injury could blow out to $500,000 when you consider his reduced market value.
It's hard to begrudge Mansour for his desire to make the most out of his new deal. He last year welcomed his first child.
And in his previous contract negotiations, when he had a lucrative deal with Canberra on the table, he took less to stay because of the loyalty he felt to the Panthers for giving him an opportunity when he did not get one from his junior club, South Sydney.
''Before when I made a decision on my future it was purely based on myself,'' Mansour told NRL.com before the season. “Now that’s not the case. I have a young family and now I can’t make selfish decisions based on what I want. Any decision I make is purely based on my family.
“'I think the club is going to do the best it can to keep me. I have no doubts about that. But I’m sure if I was going to get an awesome offer somewhere else, I think I have the blessing from the club to go.”
Penrith don’t want Mansour to leave. They’ve also given him their blessing to chase the dollars to support his family, such is the respect and admiration they have for a player who has developed a cult following since his arrival in 2012.
Unfortunately for Mansour, he may not get what he would have likely received had he got the opportunity to rekindle the form that led to him being regarded as the best winger in the Telstra Premiership before rupturing his ACL in 2016.