Maroons' Panther aims to bring down Blues

·2-min read

He's orchestrated Penrith's incredible NRL run and ensured Kurt Capewell arrived in Queensland camp full of confidence.

But next Wednesday Jarome Luai - one of six Panthers in Brad Fittler's NSW squad - is just another rookie Origin half the Maroons want to take down.

Luai's hot form and cool head won him the battle for the five-eighth spot, partnering club teammate Nathan Cleary in the halves for the series opener in Townsville next Wednesday.

Capewell is the lone Panthers player in Paul Green's Queensland squad, but shapes as a crucial cog after the back-rower showed his versatility in the centres during last year's series win.

Penrith won 16 consecutive games before losing last season's grand final and have started 2021 with 12 straight wins.

But Capewell said all that has gone out the window since he slipped on his Maroon shirt on Monday.

"They've (the friendships) stopped already. I've blocked their numbers, left every group chat I'm in," Capewell joked to AAP.

"You play better footy when everyone's playing better around you as well, you take confidence from that.

"But she's game on ... I look forward to the banter that we're going to have, but once you pull that jersey on I probably won't be thinking about them so much."

Whether Luai can immediately transfer his club form to the Origin arena is the lingering question, given it's something many rookie Blues playmakers - including Cleary - have struggled to do in the past.

Capewell said there was no secret to stopping him though, even with the NRL's crackdown on high contact leaving question marks over the physicality that will be tolerated in the Origin arena.

"When you've got players like that who are so good when they get the ball in their hands you just try not to give him the ball very often and just try and defend well as a team," he said.

"Origin's always going to have a certain aspect of Origin.

"It's the passion that players play with and the aggression in Origin is definitely more than you'll see in a regular game.

"It'll be interesting to see how it plays out."

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