Jarome Luai was at the centre of controversy in the NRL grand final on Sunday night after officials appeared to miss an ugly incident in which the Panthers five-eighth seemingly kicked Eels forward Isaiah Papali'i.
Penrith sealed their status as one of the NRL's greatest ever teams, winning back-to-back premierships with a crushing 28-12 win over Parramatta at Accor Stadium.
'COMPLETE JOKE': NRL world in uproar over grand final 'disgrace'
'HAVE SOME CLASS': Panthers fans under fire over ugly scenes
In one of the most one-sided deciders this century, Penrith blew the Eels off the park in a near-perfect first half before Parramatta scored two late tries.
But despite the Panthers' dominant display, many were left fuming over the actions of Luai.
With the Panthers already up 12-0 after a barnstorming start to the decider at Accor Stadium, Luai was involved in controversial scenes during a tackle on teammate Brian To'o.
Laui came over to act as dummy half as Papali'i and Will Penisini were lying on To'o on the ground, and appeared to kick Papali'i with a short right foot to the body.
While officials completely missed the alleged kick, fans were quick to call out Luai on social media.
— SixOverCoverAgainstTheSpin (@toddyor73) October 2, 2022
Did Luai just give a little kick into a parra player there #NRLGF
— Harmonious Murmur (@Harmoniousmurm) October 2, 2022
Luai just laid a boot into a Parramatta defender on the ground #NRLPanthersEels
— NRL.CON.AU (@NrlConspiracies) October 2, 2022
Yes. Yes he did. Was he penalised. No, because he is a protected species. He is disgusting.
— EJ 💁🏼♀️ (@miss_emilyjane) October 2, 2022
Panthers look the like the new Melbourne. Dirty and smug.
— Ανδριοτου (@giorgioua) October 2, 2022
Luai just kicks a player making a tackle, nice.
— Sock (@sock0nhead) October 2, 2022
Surely my husband and I aren't the only ones who saw Jarome Luai's kick into Isaiah Papali'i's back during the first half right??? Cause Ashley Klein's missing penalty calls left, right and centre on both sides tonight #shitshow #NRLGF #nrlgrandfinal #eelsvspanthers
— Alizah (@AlizahAmaliah) October 2, 2022
Other fans defended Luai and said there wasn't anything in the incident, while some suggested he was retaliating after being pushed by Papali'i while chasing a kick just moments earlier.
Papali'i also played it down after the game, saying he didn't think he'd been kicked.
Unfortunately for Luai it wasn't the first time this year that his on-field actions left NRL fans fuming.
He also came under heavy fire during State of Origin III when he taunted Selwyn Cobbo following a sickening collision that left the young Queensland winger unconscious.
Can the Panthers win three-straight NRL titles?
Prior to the Panthers, only the Sydney Roosters had won back-to-back premierships since the Super League era of the 1990s.
Penrith have now won 67 of 78 games in the past three seasons, with their average winning margin beyond 13 points.
In this year alone they won every grade from the NRL down to under-18s, becoming the first club to do so in the game's 115-season history.
But no side has won three-straight titles in the past 40 years, with the great Eels team of the early 1980s the last team to do so.
If any team is likely to change that record it is this Panthers side.
They will start next year as overwhelming title favourites, and there is every chance their dynasty will last beyond that.
"We just take it one day at a time," Ivan Cleary said in his post-match press conference.
"I don't give a s*** about next year, we'll enjoy tonight.
"It's been an unbelievable season for our club. It's never been done before, four grades.
"It's hard to put it into words other than to say how proud we all are.
"Our club is very aligned. Everybody is their own person but we are all woven together by a common thread of trying to do our best for the club."
Api Koroisau's energy will be hard to replace at hooker and Viliame Kikau's power will leave a hole on the left edge, with the Panthers stars joining the Wests Tigers and Bulldogs respectively.
Cleary also knows premierships aren't easy to come by, after having taken six teams to finals before claiming his first title in 2020.
"It's honestly hard to explain how good that feels," Cleary said of the all-grade dominance after Sunday's win.
"Because it can be gone. Four of those titles (across all the grades), there are grand finals to play. Sudden-death semi-finals.
"You have to have a bit of luck too. The footy gods have been on our side. That's awesome."
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