Ex-Panthers’ tales make for Penrith’s best sale to Luai

Scott Bailey |

Jarome Luai has to decide whether to stay or leave three-time Premiership winners Penrith.
Jarome Luai has to decide whether to stay or leave three-time Premiership winners Penrith.

Daine Laurie could loom as Penrith’s secret weapon in their fight to keep Jarome Luai.

So too, could Tyrone Peachey or to a lesser extent Matt Burton, since his decision to leave the Panthers in 2021.

Now able to talk to rivals about 2025 and beyond, Luai stirred up a social media storm on Thursday when he posted “know your worth”.

It came after Penrith coach Ivan Cleary claimed rivals were taking a risk by offering Luai big money to be their main man.

Luai, himself, has described his looming decision as one between success and family. 

Penrith can offer Luai $850,000 a season, and a chance to continue the dynasty he’s helped build.

Rivals will likely offer closer to $1.1 million, and the challenge of building a club on his own. 

The Panthers are confident they can keep Luai with Cleary declaring at a press conference on Wednesday the 26-year-old belonged at Penrith.

In the same auditorium was Laurie, who watched on in his first day as a Panther after leaving the club for Wests Tigers at the start of 2021.

Laurie has no regrets over leaving Penrith, believing he returns a better and more mature player.

But he admits it’s not easy watching from the outside.

“When you leave, they have success and everyone wants success,” Laurie said.

“You think: ‘I kind of wish I was there with them’ when they win three premierships in a row and you want to be a part of that.”

Laurie hopes to play as a bench utility for Penrith next year and could be the man to replace Luai at No.6 in 2025 if the Panthers star does leave.

But it’s clear Laurie has always felt a link with Penrith, even celebrating their 2021 premiership in a Panthers jersey on grand-final night.

“I got in a little bit of trouble for it,” Laurie quipped.

“I was just happy for my mates, winning a comp. I was still at Penrith at the start of the year, so I was just happy for them.”

Laurie’s ties aren’t unique.

After leaving Penrith for a big-money Gold Coast deal in 2018, Peachey requested a release from the Tigers to return to Penrith on less money this year.

In an interview last month, Peachey said he would advise any player against leaving the club for only a slight financial gain.

Others, such as Burton, have not returned.

But after winning a premiership at Penrith in 2021, Burton has not been able to climb the same heights at Canterbury.

In turn, his State of Origin chances vanished this season, along with the shot at $90,000 per year in representative payments.

Every story is different though as Apisai Koroisau and Kurt Capewell remained Origin players after leaving Penrith.

But the Panthers do hope Luai will keep those varied journeys in mind.

“I’m sure he would (take that into account),” Cleary said.