Panther Luai 'Happy To Be In The Mix'
Putting a ‘whirlwind’ last week behind him, Panthers Intrust Super Premiership NSW five-eighth Jarome Luai learned that good things come to those who wait.
And while his would-be NRL debut was put on hold in Round 4 – originally named to make his first grade start in the Panthers’ clash with the North Queensland Cowboys at 1300SMILES Stadium – the 21-year-old playmaker was a late omission from the side which ran out eventual 33-14 victors.
Making trips between Sydney and Townsville in the lead up to the Intrust Super Premiership NSW side’s clash with the Newtown Jets at Penrith, Luai had time to reflect.
The disappointment of his own misfortune set in, though also came the happiness for teammate Wayde Egan – who earned an NRL debut of his own in the win over the Cowboys.
“It was a real shock to be named at all, to be honest … I found out a day or two before that I wouldn’t be playing, but I’m still really happy to know that I’m in the mix,” Luai tells NSWRL.com.au.
“I was a little bit disappointed, I just really wanted to get that shot in the NRL... I came through the grades with Wayde, all the way back to SG Ball with him. So to see him run out it was pretty special, each year he’s progressed and has really earned that spot.
“If I keep playing well with the boys down here at ISP level, hopefully I’ll get a crack in the top grade soon.”
As he did in the side’s Round 3 clash with the Warriors – a performance deemed worthy enough to be named in the Panthers’ NRL squad the following week – Luai took control of his side’s Round 5 match-up with the Mounties at Aubrey Keech Reserve.
Proving a spark in attack, Luai assisted in two tries and crossed for one of his own – putting aside the disappointment of his personal performance against Newtown the week prior, just days after missing out on an NRL start.
“We got too far behind on the penalty count last week, it was a real focus for us [in Round 5] to be more disciplined, especially in that first 20 minutes,” Luai says.
“The boys did really well to get into that grind. [Mounties has] a big pack, and so we really had to put an emphasis on turning them over and winning the play-the-ball. It’s something we didn’t do against Newtown and it came back to hurt us in the end.
“Our defence obviously wasn’t where we wanted it to be, and I thought that improved this week – a few tries their at the end were disappointing to concede, but I thought we were in control for much of the match.”
The Panthers will look to build upon their Round 5 win over Mounties when they meet the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at Panthers Stadium next Sunday (15 April).