During the week I was able to have an exclusive interview with Jarome Luai right before game one of the 2022 State of Origin series. The Blues’ five-eighth shared memories, laughs and an insight into the game on Wednesday night. He will be hoping to lead the New South Wales Blues to another win to start the three-game series.
After playing in two consecutive Grand Finals for the Panthers, Luai has excelled in the five-eighth position. First representing New South Wales last year, he was a defining factor in it winning the series against Queensland.
This year Luai will play alongside five of his Penrith Panthers teammates, joining him are Brian To’o, Nathan Cleary, Isaah Yeo, Liam Martin, and Stephen Crichton.
“(It’s) such a privilege for us boys to do what we do at club [level] and then come bring it to one of the biggest stages in our game. We’re definitely blessed and privileged to be here right now,” Luai told The Inner Sanctum.
All five players are good mates on and off the field. With most of them growing up in the western suburbs of Sydney, they have known each other for a long time.
Their friendship has been a big part in the Panthers’ success and will hope to bring it to state level.
“We drove up here and were sort of pinching each other on our way here, just talking about our experiences and stuff like that. We’re really grateful to be here,” Luai said.
Over the past week, the training squad for game one has been training in Sydney at Coogee Oval and the Ignite HQ Centre of Excellence. Luai said he was able to learn from many of the star players in the squad. when asked specifically who has helped him improve his game, Luai had many players in mind.
“Nathan (Cleary), Teddy (James Tedesco), Kookie (Kotoni Staggs), Jack Wighton,” he said.
“Tariq Sims has been massive for me just with (his) energy.”
Due to the COVID pandemic over the past two years, there have been no games in Sydney. For many of the New South Wales players, it will be the first time playing in front of their home crowd.
The home crowd advantage plays a major factor in the game as the fans are able to sway momentum to the home side.
“I’ve played both my games up in Queensland last year, so I really can’t wait for that reception and experience the home feeling of just seeing the crowd on our side for once,” he said.
“I got 15 tickets, that’s out of the bank account. We want our families to experience this with us. We wouldn’t be here without them.”
Family is a big part of Luai’s career and life. With his three younger siblings, son and wife, his family have helped transform him into becoming a better player. On Wednesday, all of his family will be out to watch him for the first time in the Blues uniform in Sydney.
With the game getting closer to being played, the Maroons will be looking for payback from last year. Queensland signed former player Billy Slater to be its new coach. With his signing, he brought in a new coaching staff to improve on last year.
Queensland will have four new debutantes playing this Wednesday. These players include Selwyn Cobbo, Reuben Cotter, Patrick Carrigan, and Jeremiah Nanai. After studying the team, Luai believes the Maroons will be a force to be reckoned with and the Blues will need to bring their A-game.
“They’ve got a really good side, especially on paper. They’ve got some of the greats within their coaching staff as well. They’ll definitely be able to speak on their experiences on their behalf,” he said.
“I know they’ll be ready for this game one.”
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