Wiedler might be a dick but Gower sure has made himself look the fool after comment earlier this week. Panthers let Gower go Gallic June 26, 2007 PENRITH has agreed to release star halfback Craig Gower from the final two years of his NRL contract to join French rugby union club Bayonne from 2008. Gower met with Panthers coach Matthew Elliott yesterday and told him he wanted an early release. A formal request was made by his manager, Greg Willett, this morning, with the Panthers agreeing in principle to release the former Australia and New Sotuh Wales halfback from his current deal. The request will be put to the Penrith board at its regular meeting tomorrow. Gower will play out the rest of this season for the Panthers. "We have reluctantly agreed in principle to Craig's request, because we believe that under the circumstances it is in his best interests to have a change," Panthers general manager Michael Leary said today. "Our decision was based on the great service that Craig has given our club. "He has been with us since he was 14 years old and is now ranked third in the highest number of first-grade games for Penrith (with 228 caps). "In making this decision, the club wishes Craig and (wife) Amanda the very best for the future. "We look forward to Craig finishing the year on a high note, and he is determined to do so. "The club not only values Craig's contribution on the field and in the community, we also want to maintain a friendship with one of our greatest-ever players." Division one side Bayonne finished eighth in the just completed French rugby season. The next season begins later this year. Gower had unsuccessfully sought a release to play club rugby in Europe last year, but was given permission to train with a French team at the end of the 2006 NRL season. The 29 year old denied wanting a release at the weekend after reports surfaced last Friday he wanted to leave the club. Manager Willett, however, admitted Gower was exploring his options in Europe. Because of his heritage, Gower can represent Italy in union. A spot in the Rugby World Cup this September-October appears unlikely, though, given the timing of the move - he would relocate in September at the earliest - and the fact Gower would have to be selected over two established players in halfback Alessandro Troncon, the most capped Italy player, and experienced five-eighth Ramiro Pez. Gower's last two years in the NRL have been blighted by off-field controversies. In late 2005, he was fined $100,000 ($70,000 suspended) by the club and lost the Penrith captaincy after an alcohol-fuelled incident at a charity golf tournament on Queensland's Sunshine Coast. He was also involved in another drink-related incident at Sydney's Kings Cross in February 2007. Despite the controversy, Gower was reappointed Penrith's captain this season. He made 14 appearances for Australia, and captained the Kangaroos in a Test against France in 2005. He also played six State of Origin games for New South Wales, as well as two games in the 1997 Super League Tri-Series against Queensland and New Zealand. Gower, who initially took over the Panthers captaincy in 2002, also led the club to the NRL Premiership in 2003.