Stephen Crichton has insisted neither money nor the chance to play fullback factored into his decision to leave Penrith at the end of this season.
Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, Crichton opened up on his impending Panthers exit in his first interview since it was announced he would be making the move to Belmore.
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Calling it a “difficult decision”, Crichton told The Telegraph that he gets “emotional” any time he thinks about this being his final year at the foot of the mountains.
“I have been a Penrith junior and I grew up coming through the ranks with the boys — a couple of them are my best mates,” he said.
“It was the hardest decision I have ever made with my career. It was definitely hard just knowing that my time at Penrith will be coming to an end.
“I won’t take for granted the times I get to put this beautiful jersey on.”
Crichton signed a four-year deal with the Bulldogs reported to be worth over $3.3 million, joining former Panthers teammates Matt Burton and Viliame Kikau in the blue and white.
The 22-year-old has previously spoken of his ambitions to play fullback at Penrith, although Crichton maintained that did not influence his decision to leave for the Bulldogs.
“I just want to make it clear it was nothing to do with money, it was nothing to do with position,” Crichton said.
“I kind of never wanted to leave Penrith. My only option I wanted was to stay no matter what happened. I got back from my time at the World Cup and was looking for an answer.
“I had to go to Samoa and wanted to get it done, but just couldn’t get an answer.
“So once I got my head around that I couldn’t stay with Penrith, I spoke to a few people I trust, then I made a decision to move on.
“The opportunity at the Bulldogs came up and just looking at the club, that is where my decision went.”
Crichton added that while his agent had interest from other NRL clubs, he said if he was not going to stay put, he would prefer to play under Cameron Ciraldo, who he worked with closely during his time at the Panthers.
“I had told him if I wasn’t staying that I wanted to go with Ciro,” Crichton said.
“I looked at them and saw they were going the right way as well. That kind of persuaded me. Having Cam Ciraldo there, having worked with him in the first five years of my career, he can get the best out of me on the field and off the field as well.”
But Crichton also stressed to any concerned Panthers fans that his focus remains on going out on a high and leaving the club with a third premiership ring.
“I have more important things to worry about this year — that is the Panthers and winning another premiership for the club,” he said.
“I don’t want to worry about the future, I want to stay present, do my job and play my hardest for Penrith right now.”
Originally published as ‘Nothing to do with money’: Stephen Crichton’s real reason for ‘difficult’ Panthers exit