In classic Jarome Luai fashion, two things are keeping this ‘cool cat’ calm and focused during a hectic Grand Final Week – family and computer games.
While his teammates will have their own ways of passing the time before Sunday’s big clash against the Storm, Luai’s been firing up his PC – just like he’s done every other week during this historic season.
“That’s how I cope with it all, the pressure and that sort of stuff,” Luai said.
“The missus gives me my time on the computer, but I also love hanging out with my son and my wife too. It keeps me calm.”
Much like he has been all year, 23-year-old Luai was one of the standouts for the Panthers in last Saturday night’s thrilling Preliminary Final victory over Souths.
Despite Penrith being the better side for much of the contest, the Bunnies made it rather interesting in the final few minutes – or what felt like an eternity for the players on the field and the fans in the stands.
“Those last few minutes felt like 30 or 40,” Luai admitted.
“Towards the end of the game I copped a bit of a knock from Critta (Stephen Crichton) and I had heaps of blood everywhere, but I just kept telling myself ‘you’re a couple of minutes away from a Grand Final, you can’t lose this’.
“Thankfully we stuck in there against the best attacking team in the comp and we all felt that team song in the sheds after the game.”
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South Sydney had been carving up their opponents in the weeks leading up to last weekend’s game but only managed to record 16 points against the Minor Premiers, in what was largely an error-riddled contest.
Luai said Penrith’s incredible defence, which hasn’t let them down all year, will need to be even better this Sunday against Melbourne.
“We are a resilient team and we’ve shown that throughout the year. I think our defence last week definitely saved us from a possible loss and we have to learn from that,” he said.
“In a game of Finals footy, it all comes down to who controls the ball the best and who defends well. I’ve never got any doubt in this defence that we have, I’m really confident if we put our best foot forward this week then we’ll put up a good fight.”
While 2020 has thrown up its fair set of challenges for the entire planet, the Panthers have embraced every single hurdle they’ve come across and it will be no different come Sunday night.
“We’re just excited to be in the position that we are in, we’re so grateful,” Luai said.
“Everyone has had a tough year and I’m sure it’s a year that everyone would rather forget, but for us it’s one we want to remember.”
Nathan Taylor is the Weekender’s Deputy Editor and Senior Sports Writer. He also compiles the weekly Chatter on the Box TV column. Nathan is an award-winning journalist, who has worked at the Weekender for a decade.