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"I'm ready to lead": Luai

Westpac NSW Blues five-eighth Jarome Luai says he is ready to lead the team in a must-win Game Two of the Ampol State of Origin series in Brisbane to keep the series alive.

With a lot of doubt surrounding his ability to lead the Blues without Nathan Cleary playing alongside him, Luai is confident he can deliver a win and save the series on Wednesday night.

After successfully leading Samoa to the World Cup Final last year, the St Mary’s Saints junior is backing himself to lead the Blues to a must win victory despite a hostile welcome he is expecting at Suncorp Stadium.

“I know people have that opinion that I can’t really play without Nath (Penrith teammate Nathan Cleary), and I enjoy that challenge. I know what I can do and what I can bring to a team,” he said.

“It’s a bit of a similar challenge playing in their backyard and playing with all their fans against you.

“Their fans love their footy and they rip into you for 80 minutes so it’s definitely a different beast.”

Luai has played six games for the Blues since making his Origin debut in Game One of the 2021 series. However this will be his first game without his Panthers halves partner in Cleary, who has been ruled out of the rest of series with a hamstring injury.

Instead, he will be linking up with the newly-appointed NSW halfback Mitchell Moses, who Luai is used to playing against in heated ‘Battle of the West’ matches between the Panthers and Parramatta Eels, including the 2022 Grand Final.

“I haven’t played a lot of footy with anyone besides Nath, I’m pretty excited to have that opportunity to play with Mitch.

“I’ve played footy against him, and I’ve done a lot of homework on his game, so I know what he is good at.

“Hopefully I can help his game next Wednesday.”

Despite not having a lot of time to build their combination, Luai believes Moses has aspects in his game that are similar to Cleary.

“Being around him, he’s definitely a composed character like Nathan, he has a great kicking game as well,” Luai said.

“We had a cool conversation yesterday about off-field things, so I definitely know we have a lot in common, which sort of fast-tracks what we can do on the field.

“I’m happy with where we are at.”

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New South Wales Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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