Waqa Blake in action for the Panthers.
Waqa Blake in action for the Panthers. DARREN PATEMAN

Blake decides to stick with Panthers

RUGBY LEAGUE: Penrith has continued its signing spree by contracting centre Waqa Blake until the end of the 2019 NRL season.

He becomes the 16th current player to be given a new deal at the Panthers, plus five new squad members.

"Waqa's story is a great one," club boss Phil Gould told reporters.

"He came through our education and welfare house parenting program as a teenager and was a member of our premiership-winning NYC side in 2013.

"He has progressed through the grades, improving every season, and is now a valuable member of our NRL team.

"Waqa's best football is still ahead of him. He is an outstanding athlete and I believe he is a high level representative player of the future."

Blake, 22, is the 12th player under contract until 2019, including boom halfback Nathan Cleary, and forwards James Fisher-Harris, Tyrone Peachey and Isaah Yeo.

Teammates Leilani Latu, Trent Merrin and James Tamou are signed to 2020, while Bryce Cartwright and Matt Moylan have mammoth deals until 2021.

No other club has shelled out more money beyond 2018, although first-team regulars Dean Whare and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak remain the only players without a deal after next season.

Penrith's top 25 squad, including recruits Tamou, Mitch Rein and Michael Oldfield but without the Four Nations representatives, began pre-season training on Monday.

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