Jarome Luai breaks into NSW Origin side
Toa Samoa representative player and Penrith Panthers five-eight Jarome Luai has broken into the New South Wales Origin side, after starring for his side in the 26-20 defeat at the hands of the Melbourne Storm in this year’s NRL grand final on Sunday night.
Australian rugby league commentators have described the inclusion of the 23-year-old in the NSW Blues side as a “surprise”, as he has played for the Junior Kiwis as well as Samoa in the last Rugby League World Cup.
Luai is one of four debutantes who were added to the NSW Blues team after the grand final. The others include Panthers centre Stephen Crichton, Isaah Yeo and the NRL Clive Churchill Medal winner, Storm’s Ryan Papenhuyzen.
A fortnight ago Luai reportedly said he is eligible to represent NSW but his heart is with Samoa.
"I’d be still eligible for the Blues, but my heart is with Samoa,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“I know how good Samoa can be, there’s a lot of good young talent coming through, and the brothers I’ve grown up playing with want to play for Samoa as well – Brian To’o, Stephen Crichton, Spencer Leniu, Moses Leota, Tyrone May, we’re all eligible.
“We’ve seen what has happened with Tonga, and hopefully that’s something we can get going one day because I know how much of a threat Samoa can be to the other nations. If we all buy-in, we will get a lot of rewards out of it.’’
However, following the announcement of his selection on Sunday by NSW Blues Coach Brad Fittler, Luai told NRL News that it was a good feeling to be told by the coach of his inclusion.
"I'm just really disappointed still but really happy that opportunity has come," Luai said.
"It's probably the highest footy that can be played so really excited to get in there and experience that with the boys. Happy."
Asked about his comment swearing allegiance to Samoa, Luai added: "that was showing I wanted to play for Samoa, and if NSW popped up I'd be happy to take that opportunity.
"I'm really grateful for that now and I get the chance to go in there, experience something new.
"I think it's something I thought I wasn't good enough to play so I never really thought about it, ever.
"That's what I'm happy about I guess is that opportunity so I'm really grateful for that. It's going to be a good time."
In 2017 Luai represented Samoa in the 2017 World Cup. He hails from the village of Palauli, Savai'i.
The first 2020 State of Origin match between NSW and Queensland is scheduled for Wednesday 4 November.