New footage has emerged of the moment Jarome Luai allegedly kicked Isaiah Papali'i in the NRL grand final, proving the incident wasn't what many fans originally thought.
Luai came under fire during Sunday night's grand final between the Panthers and Eels, with many fans of the belief that the Penrith five-eighth had kicked Papali'i on the ground.
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Luai came to acting dummy half after teammate Brian To'o had been taken to ground by Papali'i and Will Penisini early in the first half at Accor Stadium.
Channel 9 footage then appeared to show Luai lash out at Papali'i with a kick to the body while the Eels forward was lying on the ground, with fans taking to social media to call out the incident.
— SixOverCoverAgainstTheSpin (@toddyor73) October 2, 2022
But new footage of the incident emerged on Thursday from behind the play, showing Luai did nothing of the sort.
The new footage shows Luai's leg might have made minimal contact with Papali'i's body, but he certainly didn't kick him and had no intentions of doing so.
Few Parra fans (and Ryan Matterson) going to have a really hard time watching this pic.twitter.com/GdLo6JbhAc
— Foot of Edwards (@angusbacon21) October 6, 2022
Parramatta forward Ryan Matterson was among those to accuse Luai, despite Papali'i admitting after the match that he hadn't been kicked.
Matterson dragged Luai into the controversy around his decision to take a three-match suspension rather than $4000 fine for a crusher tackle on Dylan Edwards in the decider.
The Eels second-rower hit out at a perceived lack of consistency from NRL officials and accused Luai of kicking Papali'i.
"The way Dylan went back in towards me and he kept driving his legs, I tried to let his head out but he just kept back-pedalling," Matterson said.
"I'm not going to let him back-pedal 100 metres. So I have to stop him. There wasn't much in it.
"It didn't make sense to me. At the time I thought it was definitely a penalty, but I didn't think it would go much further than that.
"Considering Jarome Luai is kicking players and he didn't get cited. It makes you think 'Where is this game heading?'"
Luai later responded to Matterson's comments, reposting them on social media with three crying emojis and Kennyon Brown’s song 'Cry 4 You'.
Nathan Cleary comes to Jarome Luai's defence
Luai has been at the centre of much controversy in the aftermath of the Panthers' triumph, with some accusing him of disrespecting the Eels by referring to Penrith as their 'daddies'.
The star five-eighth could also land himself in hot water for the use of the n-word in a social media post, which the NRL integrity unit is examining.
"Romie's just a character and I think people enjoy watching him because he's that character, he is different to other people and that's what makes him so special," Nathan Cleary said on Thursday.
"He's not generic and straight up and down and (if he was) I don't think he'd be as good a player as he is. He's a true competitor.
"Sometimes he's going to say stuff that's going to rile people up, that's what we enjoy about the game of rugby league, it's different."
Cleary also defended his teammates and said the criticism levelled at them over their premiership celebrations has been 'unfair'.
"I don't think any of them are arrogant, if we were arrogant I don't think we'd have gone back-to-back," he said.
"There's no ego in what we do. I think it's unfair on some of our players the way they are portrayed in the media.
"It's an easy target when you're at the top. If you're successful and doing well, there's always going to be people wanting to tear you down."
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