Penrith have granted star Dallin Watene-Zelezniak permission to speak to rival NRL teams in the latest blow for the embattled NRL club.
The development comes a day after Panthers coach Ivan Cleary dropped Watene-Zelezniak from the team to play Parramatta on Thursday.
"Earlier this week Dallin Watene-Zelezniak's management sought permission from Panthers to speak with other NRL clubs regarding Dallin's immediate and future playing career," the Panthers said via a statement on Wednesday.
"This permission was granted following discussions by the club's retention and recruitment committee."
Watene-Zelezniak has been heavily linked with the Eels despite being contracted with Penrith until the end of the 2020 season.
Cleary refused to answer questions when pressed on Watene-Zelezniak's status during his weekly pre-game press conference.
"I don't want to discuss selection. I don't think it's fair on anyone. It's an internal thing again, speaking in school," Cleary said.
"Clearly we're looking for change. A lot of people here, including myself aren't performing well enough. Sometimes you're going to make some changes.
"That's what we're doing."
When asked whether there was a reason why Watene-Zelezniak has been dropped, Cleary said: "There's a reason, but I'm not going to discuss that either.
"The club policy is not to talk about recruitment and retention either, so I'm sorry but that's just not how we do it."
The news comes just two months after Cleary included the Kiwis captain as one of six co-captains at the club.
Eels coach Brad Arthur described Watene-Zelezniak as a good player when he was asked whether he was surprised Penrith left him out of their line-up.
"I don't get surprised or disappointed or excited about other teams' selections. We've got to worry about our own team," he said.
"He's a good player but obviously they've got their reasons."
When asked about the club's interest in the 23-year-old Arthur said: "I don't know anything about that. What I do know is that we're real happy with the blokes we've got."
North Queensland have also been linked to Watene-Zelezniak as they seek to solve their fullback conundrum.
The Cowboys have been searching for a new No.1 after Ben Barba was banned for life by the NRL, they also missed out on aspiring NFL player Valentine Holmes.
Australian Associated Press