Jarome Luai doesn't care what you think about him, even if he received the loudest boos at the NRL grand final fan fest on Thursday. The Panthers and Broncos players were presented to the crowd in Sydney on Thursday ahead of Sunday night's decider, and Luai was audibly booed as his name was called out.
The Panthers are gunning for three-consecutive premierships, but a constant criticism of Ivan Cleary's all-conquering side is their perceived arrogance and lack of class. Luai is constantly the target of social media abuse over the way he conducts himself on and off the field, but the Panthers five-eighth couldn't care less.
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"Oh, man, that's okay with me," Luai told AAP when informed that he's public enemy No.1. "I understand it, we're in a fan-driven sport.
"People have their team that they go for and it's understandable that I'm not going to be liked by everyone. Coming into first grade you want to be loved… but I pretty much found out after my first year, that whatever you say or do, there are going to be haters."
Luai copped backlash after last year's grand final win over Parramatta when he used an offensive term in a social media post. He also mocked the Eels players, labelling the Panthers their "daddies".
The criticism took a nasty turn during the State of Origin series this year when Luai received death threats after Game II, which Queensland won to secure the series. He hopped on Instagram that night and write: "Chill, all you idiots have work tomorrow".
"It's my platform, I should be able to say what I want to say," Luai said. "When I speak up for myself, people tend to say I'm the bad guy after they've sent all these messages. I'm just going to do what I want, and say what I want to say. I haven't hurt anybody and haven't broken any rules."
The post was accompanied by a 2Pac song entitled "Me Against The World". "That's been me, man, I've always had doubters," Luai said. "That's always given me that extra motivational drive."
Luai also copped widespread condemnation for taunting a concussed Selwyn Cobbo after the Maroons winger copped a huge hit to the head and was lying prone on the ground. Luai later revealed he didn't realise Cobbo was in such a bad way, and the two combatants will clash again in the grand final.
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Luai was axed by Brad Fittler for Origin III, but didn't let the setback affect his form at club level. The five-eighth has been instrumental in Penrith's charge to a fourth grand final in a row.
"It doesn't take much for 'Romey' to get a fire in his belly," said Penrith coach Ivan Cleary. "He's one of those guys who reacts well to a challenge. They all have to be (hugged) at some point but he's a staunch fella, and very mentally strong."
Long-time teammate Brian To'o said Luai is a very different person off the field. "He's a good father and I think that's all that matters to him," To'o said. "My brother is bulletproof, man, nothing anyone says can hurt him. He's just having fun out there."
No team has won three-straight premierships since Parramatta from 1981 to 1983. Luai is keen to silence the haters even more and win another title in his last game with good mates Stephen Crichton and Spencer Leniu.
"It's something for us to chase, no club has done it before with a salary cap in place," Luai said. "It's pretty sad (that those guys are leaving), I'm going to miss them man and I want to send them out on a good note."
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