Luai won’t struggle with pressure at Tigers: Brooks

Scott Bailey |

Penrith five-eighth Jarome Luai (right) is expected to thrive when he moves to Wests Tigers.
Penrith five-eighth Jarome Luai (right) is expected to thrive when he moves to Wests Tigers.

Luke Brooks believes Jarome Luai’s lack of baggage and love of the spotlight means the Penrith five-eighth will thrive when he moves to Wests Tigers.

Saturday night’s NRL clash between Manly and Penrith is very much a “transit lounge meeting” of the halves.

First there’s Brooks, who had to carry the weight of the world at the Tigers for a decade before leaving for the Sea Eagles.

Then there’s Luai, who is about to take on Brooks’ old role as one of the most scrutinised players in rugby league with the Wests Tigers’ No.7 jersey, after inking a $6 million, five-year deal from next season.

But Brooks has no doubt the pressure that comes with the job won’t be an issue for Luai, at a club that has not played finals since 2012.

When Brooks was flung into the job in 2013, he was already carrying the baggage of being labelled the next Andrew Johns. 

In his place, Luai will bring at least three premiership rings in his bag to Concord.

“For him he’s going off the back of winning premierships,” Brooks said. 

“He’s got that confidence. He doesn’t have that baggage behind him.

Manly's Luke Brooks (top)
Manly’s Luke Brooks (top) has been impressed with how Jarome Luai goes about his business. (Mark Evans/AAP PHOTOS)

“He’s someone who seems to me that he likes that spotlight. He will probably enjoy it. He’s come from success, so he knows what it looks like.”

The biggest question around Luai’s move to the Tigers is how he will handle running a team. Even his current coach Ivan Cleary has questioned that.

Another early audition for that will come on Saturday night at Brookvale, where the Panthers will again be without Nathan Cleary (hamstring).

So far, it’s a test Luai has passed with flying colours.

The five-eighth has won the past eight matches he has played without Cleary, and 11 of the past 12.

He kicked more often against the Roosters last week, and while the Tri-colours fought back late, Luai’s Panthers were clearly the dominant team.

“He did a great job last week,” Brooks said of his rival five-eighth. 

“Even (Brad) Schneider coming in, he did a great job as well. 

“They’re that sort of team – once they lose one player they don’t really lose anything. 

“(They are) a quality slide and it’s gonna be a big game.”

Brooks does, however, have good baggage against Penrith.

He was the star when the Tigers shocked them in torrential rain in Bathurst last year, kicking a 40-20 and grubber for a try before Penrith had even touched the ball.

The half also kicked another 40-20 in the 12-8 win, essentially booting Penrith out of the game.

With similar conditions expected at Brookvale, Brooks hopes his kicking game can again have the same influence.

“Hopefully it’s the same result,” he said.

“Sometimes it’s easier to kick in the wet because the ball holds up a bit.

“Obviously when it’s wet, it’s harder to handle, and when you have some open spaces it’s good to kick early and get it along the ground.”