Jarome Luai handed NSW leadership role in staggering twist after State of Origin axing

Michael Maguire has added Luai to the Blues' leadership group.

At the start of 2024, Jarome Luai wasn't even in the Blues halfback conversation. But now he is seen as an integral part of New South Wales' chances of taking home the State of Origin shield. Blues coach Michael Maguire has commended the Penrith No.6's leadership qualities which have been on full display at NRL level and on Thursday promoted Luai into the NSW's leadership group.

As Isaah Yeo was announced as NSW’s vice-captain behind Jake Trbojevic, the Blues added Luai, Payne Haas, Cam McInnes and Nicho Hynes to a six-man leadership group. Luai's leadership qualities at club level have shone through in the absence of Nathan Cleary and the 27-year-old is excited by the prospect of becoming a teammate that helps others "reach their full potential".

Pictured Jarome Luai
Michael Maguire has added Jarome Luai to the Blues' leadership group for this year's Origin series. Image: Getty

"I have got to know ‘Madge’ [Maguire], even before camp, and he sees that [leadership] in me, which is really special for myself," Luai said on Thursday. "That's a step where I want to get better at. To not only lead with my footy brain and my voice but also my actions as well. Playing with younger players at Panthers, they look up to me. I do know footy well.

"With the energy I bring, I want to help other players be their best and reach their full potential. That's something I want to be remembered as."

It has been somewhat of a staggering resurgence for Luai who heads into Game I on June 5 with the weight of the state on his shoulders. Luai has played seven Origins for NSW and was part of the 2021 series victory at five-eighth but he was dropped after Game II last year - after a brain snap saw him sent off for head-butting Queensland's Reece Walsh.

But now Luai is back in the team and says his appointment into the Blues leadership group has helped change his outlook entirely. "It's been a good time that I've had to reflect on what I could have done better in camp and my approach to it all," Luai said. "It's really motivated me and I've just come into camp willing to just lay it all on the line and willing to work and make sure I'm at my best.

"I've been a victim of just coming into camp and enjoying my time soaking it all up. It's important to do that. But also knowing that it's time to go harder, step it up."

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 21:  Jarome Luai of the Blues and Reece Walsh of the Maroons scuffle during game two of the State of Origin series between the Queensland Maroons and the New South Wales Blues at Suncorp Stadium on June 21, 2023 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)
Jarome Luai was dropped for Game III last year after a brain snap in Game II saw him sent off for head-butting Queensland's Reece Walsh.

In the series opener next Wednesday Luai will partner his former touch footy teammate, Hynes, in the halves for the first time. And after seeing Hynes train on Thursday, Luai says he is excited to see what they can do together.


"He killed it," Luai said of Hynes's session. "We've done a lot of planning and game planning off the field so it was good to get him out there and start forming those combinations.

"That's important because that's where the membrane of the side is, that's the spine. It's been really clear, really straightforward. I've really enjoyed the meetings. So it was just about implementing that out there on the paddock."

with AAP