‘Testosterone and emotion’: Luai backs banned Hughes

Jasper Bruce |

Melbourne’s Jahrome Hughes (left) was given a one-week suspension for contrary conduct.
Melbourne’s Jahrome Hughes (left) was given a one-week suspension for contrary conduct.

Jarome Luai has put Jahrome Hughes’ referee push down to the “high testosterone and emotion” of the NRL, saying neither the banned Melbourne half nor any other player would ever mean to hurt a match official.

Hughes pushed Chris Butler after the referee found himself between the halfback and Warriors centre Rocco Berry as the Storm defended their line during Saturday night’s game.

The Storm had been tempted to fight the contrary conduct charge, but in a strongly worded statement on Monday confirmed they had decided against risking a longer ban at the judiciary.

Hughes will serve his one-game suspension when the Storm face Newcastle on Sunday.

Penrith five-eighth Luai was the most recent player before Hughes to face sanction for contacting a match official after he pushed touch judge Chris Sutton while celebrating a try against Brisbane in 2023.

Hughes’ incident prompted pundits to make comparisons to Luai’s own push, for which the star Panther received only a $1800 fine.

Jarome Luai (right) makes contact with touch judge Chris Sutton
Penrith’s Jarome Luai (right) makes contact with touch judge Chris Sutton (centre) in 2023. (Jono Searle/AAP PHOTOS)

“It brought back memories,” Luai said with a laugh when asked about Hughes’ push.

Luai had only seen still photographs of the push and not video of the whole incident.

But he said there would not have been any malice on the part of Hughes, with whom he has fought regular battles on the edges in games between Penrith and Melbourne.

“It’s kind of hard, we’re just players trying to win games and stop tries and things like that,” Luai said.

“I’m not too sure if it’s the positioning of the ref or something like that, where they should or shouldn’t stand. It’s a bit of a tough one.

“Just being a competitor and being a player, he was probably trying to stop a try. 

“For any player, we’re competitors and we’re in a game with high testosterone, emotions are everywhere and things like that. 

“Most of us are good guys off the field. It’s not personal or anything like that.”

Luai’s Panthers are preparing for Thursday’s grand final rematch with Brisbane, who will be without injured halfback Adam Reynolds and possibly star prop forward Payne Haas as well.

The Panthers will be without their own forward pack leader James Fisher-Harris, who went down with a shoulder injury against Parramatta in round two.

Ahead of the game, the Broncos have banned any mention of their 2023 grand final capitulation, during which they gave up a 24-8 lead to lose 26-24.

The Panthers took the opposite approach to their own heartbreak from the 2020 decider, using the loss to Melbourne as motivation on the run to the first of three consecutive titles.

But Luai expected the Broncos were in control of any demons that lingered from the defeat.

“Everyone’s got their own way of dealing with things. We dealt with it differently,” he said.

“We addressed it immediately when we came back before that pre-season and learnt whatever we needed to. 

“That helped us for that year and up until this point, so I’m not too sure how it’s affected them or how they’ve dealt with it, but I’m sure they’re sweet.”