Jarome Luai learns fate as 'unacceptable' act divides NRL world

The Panthers star was at the centre of a controversy that has left NRL fans butting heads.

Pictured here is Jarome Luai and an NRL touch judge.
The Jarome Luai incident with a touch judge left NRL fans divided on Thursday night. Pic: Getty

Penrith five-eighth Jarome Luai will be breathing a massive sigh of relief after escaping suspension over a questionable incident on Thursday night that has divided NRL fans. NSW incumbent Luai is free to play State of Origin after after escaping with a fine for his push on touch judge Chris Sutton, during Penrith's 15-4 win over Brisbane.

The Panthers playmaker brushed the incident off as "an honest mistake" and could be seen apologising to the touchie moments after making contact with him. The NRL has come down hard on players for making contact with referees and match officials in the past, but opted just to fine Luai $1800 after charging him with contrary conduct, leaving the 26-year-old available for Blues selection.

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Players are not allowed to touch match officials and over the years some have been suspended by the match review committee (MRC) for making contact with officials, while others have escaped bans. Despite there being minimal force in the contact between Luai and the official, Broncos great Sam Thaiday told Nine's coverage he copped a ban for a similar incident during his playing days.

“I got suspended for that,” Thaiday said on Nine's broadcast. “Off a scrum, I grabbed the umpire’s shirt trying to explain that he was holding me in the scrum against the Melbourne Storm here, and I got a week’s suspension for that. You’re not allowed to touch a referee.”

Thaiday's comments will no doubt rile plenty of viewers, with many arguing it was an "unacceptable" act that demanded suspension from the NRL. Others viewed the fine as a commonsense punishment from the league and were happy the incident didn't wreck the playmaker's State of Origin hopes.

Jarome Luai 'didn't realise' he was touching the official

"I was just trying to celebrate a try with a bro' and I didn't realise it was the touchie until I did it," Luai explained to AAP about the incident after the match. "I spoke to him (touch judge Chris Sutton) straight away and said, 'I didn't know it was you'. I wasn't really looking. My headlights weren't on. I apologised … and we are sweet.

"I just wanted to make sure he was alright, and then I explained what happened. I was just trying to get to (Turuva). I know he scored the try and I was going to try and jump on his back. It was my mistake and I obviously apologised after."

Penrith NRL star Jarome Luai is seen here being tackled against the Broncos. Pic: Getty
Penrith NRL star Jarome Luai is seen here being tackled against the Broncos. Pic: Getty

Luai's remarks echoed those of Nathan Cleary in his post-match press conference, with the Penrith captain indicating Luai didn't know it was the touch judge. "Romy (Luai) mentioned it to me straight after the game and he said he didn't realise it was the touchie … and then apologised straight after," Cleary said.

Luai had another strong match to back up his superb display in last week's 48-4 victory over Sydney Roosters to all but seal his NSW selection ahead of Sharks rival and reigning Dally M Medal winner, Nicho Hynes. "It is that time of the year and it is always a privilege to be in the chat about selection," Luai said. "If I do get picked, I will take it with both hands and give it my best shot."

The combination Luai has with Penrith half Cleary and lock Isaah Yeo is set to be a strength for NSW with all set to be chosen for Origin. "I've played a lot of footy with those boys and I enjoy doing so. They are probably the best players I will ever get to play with," he said.

The Panthers went top of the table on 16 points with the win, although the Rabbitohs will leapfrog them if they beat Parramatta on Friday night. With three victories in a row, the defending premiers are now starting to find their groove, with Brisbane dropping to third, having led the competition for the majority of the season.

with AAP

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