St Marys junior Jarome Luai has gone from strength to strength since his NRL debut for the Penrith Panthers in 2018 so it’s no surprise to see him as Ivan Cleary’s first pick as starting five-eighth in 2020.
Between 2018-19 he played 21 games in Canterbury Cup NSW, scoring eight tries, totalling 1263 run metres and a massive 55 tackle breaks.
Luai was also kicking goals in 2015 as a member of the premiership-winning Panthers Under-20s side as five-eighth while Nathan Cleary was halfback.
In his maiden year in the NSW Cup in 2017 he became Penrith’s starting five-eighth and helped them to a premiership and State Championship title with a huge 42-18 win over the PNG Hunters.
The 23-year-old made his first grade debut in Round 10, May 2018 but it took until his second game for him to make his mark after he scored two tries and was named Man of the Match against the Warriors.
He played second fiddle behind five-eighth James Maloney for the rest of the season but received another chance a year later when Maloney was suspended allowing him to link back up with Cleary.
“I've been watching those two since they were playing Harold Matthews,” Panthers coach Ivan Cleary said. “They've played all the way through those junior teams.”
Fast-forward to 2020 and Penrith are having one of their most successful starts to a season and following the departure of Maloney last year, Luai has been at the forefront alongside young guns Nathan Cleary, Stephen Crichton, Viliame Kikau and Billy Burns.
The playmaker has played a part in all 12 of Penrith’s games this season and has recorded 11 try assists, 253 tackles and 650 run metres and will be chasing his eighth win in a row when Penrith take on the Canberra Raiders this Saturday.