Luai desperate to make amends for NSW in Origin

Scott Bailey |

Jarome Luai says he’s ready to repay Blues officials and fans after a disappointing 2023 series.
Jarome Luai says he’s ready to repay Blues officials and fans after a disappointing 2023 series.

Jarome Luai has declared he has unfinished business in NSW colours, with the Penrith five-eighth desperate to win his way back into the State of Origin side.

Axed after they went 2-0 down in the series last year, Luai is among a number of contenders to be picked alongside Nathan Cleary later this month.

Cody Walker was man of the match in Game III for the Blues, but South Sydney’s horror start is set to make him the first player in more than two decades to go from Origin MVP to axed.

Mitch Moses’ fitness is likely to leave him struggling to claim the No.6 jersey, while Nicho Hynes and Matt Burton are among other options.

But Luai remains a chance, given the Panthers’ start to 2024 and his own combination with Cleary.

The 27-year-old has briefly spoken with new Blues coach Michael Maguire and is desperate to atone for last year.

“I didn’t leave the jersey the way I wanted to,” Luai said.

“Especially after a loss, it hurts you a bit. You want to make amends for that.

“If I’m in that jersey, preparing, then that’ll be a motivation for me to fix how I left the jersey.

“I’m not there yet. But once I’m in the jersey and once I’m in the side preparing for that week, then that’s when I’ll draw upon all those experiences.”

Luai’s experiences includes being sent off in the final minute of Origin II last year, when he and Reece Walsh both headbutted each other as NSW surrendered the series.

Death threats via social media followed.

Jarome Luai.
Jarome Luai leaves the field much to the Maroons fans’ delight after his send-off. (Darren England/AAP PHOTOS)

To date, last year’s Origin axing remains among the few setbacks for the Panther’s career given the success he has had at Penrith.

“It was pretty tough,” Luai said.

“There was a lot of criticism around Origin and performing. That’s the pressure of Origin, that’s the arena.

“Rugby league is a roller coaster, regardless. People think you’re going so well. But it can always get better. That humbles me and always keeps me grounded.

“I know that jersey will pick the man, the man who is good enough to wear it. That’s how it should be. I’m just worried about playing my best in my No.6 jersey here.

“You need to earn that jersey. But I’m building, we’re winning games here. And that’s all I’m focusing on at the moment.”

Penrith could have as many as six NSW Origin representatives again this year, with Isaah Yeo, Liam Martin, Brian To’o and Cleary all regulars.

Panthers players have also pushed the case of fullback Dylan Edwards, but that would likely require selectors to make the drastic decision of leaving out captain James Tedesco.

“That’s not really (a goal I have set out),” Edwards said.

“I have never thought about the ball being in the selectors’ court. It’s very cliche, but I focus solely on here (at Penrith.”