Panthers star Jarome Luai has staked his claim for a NSW State of Origin jersey after delivering an NRL masterclass against the Roosters on Friday night. Luai's performance will no doubt silence some of the doubters, with many fans believing Cronulla's Nicho Hynes should be picked at five-eighth for Brad Fittler's Blues.
Hynes is the reigning Dally M Medal winner and has been in outstanding form again this season, in contrast to Blues incumbent Luai. On Friday night against the Roosters though, Luai provided a timely reminder to Blues selectors about the quality he possesses after a man-of-the-match display in Penrith's 48-4 trouncing of the Roosters.
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Luai had a hand in three of the Panthers' first four tries as they cruised to a 24-0 lead at the break. The classy playmaker scored one of his own in the second half as the reigning premiers put the Roosters to the sword.
Panthers teammate and NSW halfback Nathan Cleary was bubbling in his praise of Luai after the game. "I thought he was the best player on the field," the Penrith skipper confidently declared.
"That's my boy. I've always enjoyed playing alongside him and to see him do his thing tonight was pretty cool. He just had that swagger about him. I love him when he's like that."
The performance could hardly have come at a better time for Luai, whose spot as NSW five-eighth has appeared under serious threat from the in-form Hynes. Few players in the game polarise like the energetic and competitive Luai but after Friday night's performance, little doubt will remain as to his ability to control NSW's left edge if called upon again.
Cleary hoped the masterclass had put Luai's detractors on notice. "A lot of people want to talk about him negatively, so I hope there's a lot talking about him positively tonight. He earned that," Cleary added.
"Some of the criticism he cops ... It's the game we play and he know that, but you talk about statements, I thought he put on a pretty good one.
"(The criticism) is frustrating but at the end of the day, we can't control it. You've just got to control the things you can control and I don't think anything's going to change in that regard."
Jarome Luai fires in dazzling Origin audition
Luai said after the game that he was pleased with the Panthers' win. However, the Panthers star denied suggestions he had flicked the switch just as Origin selection pressure began to heat up.
"People are saying I'm more motivated to play well now because Origin's around the corner but I always want to play well," he said. "It's a privilege to play right here with my brothers. I just think every game is an important game for myself to play well."
Luai's display left plenty of fans confident the two-time premiership winner had done enough to secure his Origin spot. However, others argued that Hynes' superior form this season should see him get the nod ahead of Luai for the Blues team.
— Rugby League News (@RugbyLeagueNews) May 12, 2023
Roosters playing Luai into an origin jersey... Walker and Hynes about to get robbed. #NRLPanthersRoosters
— Luis McClelland (@iamluisaurus) May 12, 2023
Luai is playing more like an origin 5/8 tonight…
— MATT (@matty_mccabe1) May 12, 2023
I think Luai’s performance in the ‘21 origin series, making 3 NRL grand finals straight and the RLWC final might speak more to why he will be given first shot than how he might’ve performed in the first 10 rounds of his first season without Kikau next to him..
— Fish 🏆🏆 (@Pezech) May 12, 2023
— Jem Nash (@JemNash95) May 12, 2023
Amazing how much better Luai looks with a nearly full forward pack that gets the opposition tired. Better pick some good forwards for Origin
— Frank Bolles (@FrankBolles5) May 12, 2023
— Andrew Lucas (@LucasLowdown9) May 12, 2023
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