Written by Oliver Kellner-Dunk
At just 23-years-old, Jarome Luai has already had quite an eventful Rugby League career.
In 2017, Luai captained the junior Kiwis in a loss to Australia and made his Samoan National team debut against Tonga at the Rugby League World Cup, before gaining any NRL experience.
The following year, he would break into the Penrith Panthers first-grade side in round 10 of the 2018 NRL season against the Newcastle Knights off the bench.
After this game, Luai would make the odd appearance for the first-grade side, which included an impressive outing at starting halfback, when both James Maloney and Nathan Cleary were on State of Origin duty.
Penrith would give the five-eighth further opportunities in 2019, primarily in the dying minutes of games off the bench.
This made it hard for Luai to display what he was capable of, and more times than not resulted in him having little impact on the field.
James Maloney announced he had signed with French side the Catalans Dragons towards the end of the season, meaning Luai would become the Panthers’ starting five-eighth in 2020.
Throughout the pre-season, there was much discussion on whether or not the Samoan International was ready for a starting role in the NRL, with many believing he should remain on the bench and allow Matt Burton to partner Nathan Cleary in the halves after impressing in the lower grades.
In the end, head coach Ivan Cleary would persist with Luai to great results, as the former St Marys Saint quickly rekindled the chemistry he had with Nathan Cleary coming through the ranks, and has arguably been the NRL’s most improved player.
YOUR PICK 🤔 Select your favourite moment from the hard-fought victory for the chance to win a signed Panthers jersey!
— Penrith Panthers (@PenrithPanthers) September 5, 2020
He has even had the chance to prove himself without Cleary by his side and has done so successfully.
Luai’s influence in attack has been splendid, especially when you consider he partners one of the best game controllers in the NRL.
So far, he has five tries, 15 try assists and 12 line break assists, which are freakish numbers for someone playing their first full season at starting five-eighth.
When you compare that to three-time premiership-winning five-eighth Luke Keary, who has six tries, 13 try assists and seven line-break assists; you realise just how far Jarome Luai has come in 2020.