Tamou aiming to keep captaincy then seal new Panthers deal

Following the exit of several veterans, Penrith will field one of the NRL's youngest squads and after getting his first taste of captaincy, their oldest player James Tamou is determined to keep the role.

Penrith started last season with a six-man captaincy group before Tamou, who returned to pre-season training this week, was named their sole skipper in April during the side's six-game losing streak.

He went on to play in every game under Ivan Cleary as the club regrouped but ultimately just missed out on the finals.

There were reports late in the season that Cleary could go down the path of making his 21-year-old son Nathan - who was also one of the six leadership group members last year - the captain of an inexperienced squad in 2020.

The departures of James Maloney and Reagan Campbell-Gillard, combined with the mid-year exits of Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and Waqa Blake, leaves the Panthers with almost 600 games of experience lost over the past 12 months.

Api Korosau's arrival to the club softens the blow but overall the Panthers will go into the 2020 season with most of their squad tallying less than 50 games of NRL experience.

Tamou, who turns 31 next month, is the oldest player on the squad's list and is keen to keep the captaincy.

"I'd love to, but I'd follow wherever Ivan's going," Tamou said on Wednesday.

"If Ivan does give it to me, I would absolutely love to. This club has been a massive part of myself and my family so there's nothing more that I would love to do than captain it again.

"He's got the vision there and like I said, there's a good batch of boys coming through where I'm happy just to be the leader and put them on a good path.

"Every now and then you need to hear one voice but at the moment all of the boys are putting their voice in which is good to see."

Tamou is off contract at the end of next season and was effectively free to negotiate with rival clubs from November 1 but is determined to extend his time in Penrith.

He finished the 2019 season as one of Cleary's most consistent forwards alongside injured Kiwi international James Fisher-Harris.

"Thinking about it right now, 100%, we've got such a young group here and there's nothing more I want to do than stick around," Tamou said.

"But first thing on my list is to play good footy to put my hands up for the Panthers to look at me.

"I would love to stay, that's my priority but there's a lot of work that comes before it."

Fijian forward Viliame Kikau, Koroisau and Samoan trio Jarome Luai, Moses Leota and Brian To'o remain on annual leave following their international duties earlier this month.

Fisher-Harris (pectoral) and Nathan Cleary (toe) remain on light duties following surgeries over the break.