Jarome Luai and partner share massive personal news amid $6 million contract decision

The Penrith Panthers player has locked in a key component of his future.

Jarome Luai, pictured here with his young family.
Jarome Luai and his young family. Image: Jarome Luai/Instagram

Jarome Luai has announced his engagement to long-time partner Bailey Paris Toleafoa, as the NRL world continues to wait on a final decision about where his playing future lies. Luai has reportedly accepted a five-year, $6 million offer to join the the Wests Tigers from 2025, but the contract is yet to be finalised.

Luai has told his Penrith Panthers teammates of his decision, but a new 'cooling off' period means he has had to give his club 10 days notice before the deal is finalised. Amid the awkward waiting game, the five-eighth has locked in another key piece of his future.

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Luai took to social media on Christmas Day to reveal he and Toleafoa are engaged. Toleafoa wrote: "Forever with my best friend," alongside two photos of her, Luai and the engagement ring. It sparked a flood of congratulatory messages from players and fans, including Luai's teammates and rivals.

Jarome Luai and Bailey Paris Toleafoa.
Jarome Luai and Bailey Paris Toleafoa are engaged. Image: Jarome Luai/Instagram

Luai also made a cheeky reference to the controversy surrounding his unsavoury speech at Brian To'o's wedding, jokingly declaring there would be no speeches at his own ceremony. Luai copped widespread backlash when he made a number of crude jokes at To'o's wedding earlier this year.

Jarome Luai's tricky contract decision for family

Luai and Toleafoa have three children together, and family is of utmost importance to the three-time premiership winner. His decision to join the Tigers is thought to be motivated by a desire to provide the best life for his family, with the Panthers' offer paling in comparison to the $6 million on the table at Wests.

Former teammate Stephen Crichton, who has also left the Panthers to join the Bulldogs in 2024, recently hinted that Luai would do what's best for his family. “I haven’t really spoken to him ever since I left (Penrith), which was a few weeks ago the last time I saw him,” Crichton told reporters at Bulldogs training. “The last time I did speak to him, I told him to do whatever makes him and his family happy, and I’ll be happy.

“He’s kind of my best mate as well, so wherever he goes or stays, I’m happy with wherever he goes. I’d probably sit down with my parents and see what the best solution is to put him and his family in the right position. I’d tell him to not listen to the outside noise because I had that as well last year when I was moving. As long as he knows that his family is happy wherever he goes, that’s the best thing for him.”

Jarome Luai and his baby, pictured here after a game for the Panthers in 2022.
Jarome Luai and his baby after a game for the Panthers in 2022. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Panthers not letting Jarome Luai leave the club early

Luai would be turning his back on the chance for more immediate success at the Panthers, who have won three-consecutive premierships. He would also need to step up and be the chief playmaker at the Tigers after years of playing second fiddle to Nathan Cleary.

As Adam Lucius wrote for Yahoo Sport Australia last week week: "Luai will walk in the year after next and be expected to produce from word go. He oozes ability and class but won’t have the likes of Nathan Cleary, Brian To'o, Liam Martin, James Fisher-Harris or Dylan Edwards to bail him out when the going gets tough. Not to mention the experienced, calming influence of Ivan Cleary."

But any thoughts of the Tigers persuading the Panthers to let Luai switch clubs one year early in 2024 were firmly shut down recently. "There’s absolutely no way we are letting Jarome Luai off his contract in 2024 to play for a rival club," Panthers boss Brian Fletcher said.

But Cody Kaye of Fox Sports reported: “However, we all know rugby league is a funny business and it wouldn’t be the first time that clubs have denied the release of a player only for that player to be released. At this stage, as far as the Panthers are concerned, Luai isn’t going anywhere."

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