Panthers star Jarome Luai says no matter how many competitions Penrith win during his time at the club, the motivation will always be there to secure more and more titles.
The NSW Origin five-eighth believes this special group of players – who have already won back-to-back NRL Premierships – will always have a hunger to go out and win footy games because every time they put on that Panthers strip, they are playing for their fans and community.
“Just the group that we have here, the leaders we’ve got, the energy within our side – we’re forever going to be motivated, I think,” Luai told the Weekender.
“This is our hometown and we’ve always got something to play for when we put this black jersey on, so it’s always going to be the same for us.”
Penrith will be chasing a third consecutive premiership in 2023 when their long road to glory gets underway next Friday night against the Brisbane Broncos at BlueBet Stadium.
While the term ‘threepeat’ is currently on everyone’s lips when referring to what Penrith are aiming to achieve this year, it’s a word that’s not being uttered much inside the Panthers Rugby League Academy.
“Every year is a huge year and a pretty big point was made not to worry about that (the threepeat), but just take it one year at a time because that’s what’s important,” Luai said.
“You’re only as good as your last game and, to be frank, we lost our last game, so there’s a lot of improvement in our side to go.”
In what was a shock to most rugby league fans watching on, the Panthers did lose their last game in front of a packed house at BlueBet Stadium last weekend.
While Penrith were heavy favourites to knock off St Helens on home turf and claim their first ever World Club Challenge trophy, the Super League Champions had other ideas.
With the Penrith weather on Saturday giving off tropical North Queensland vibes, St Helens came to play and arguably won one of their biggest matches in the history of the historic club.
Luai, who praised St Helens for travelling to the other side of the world and getting the job done, said losing an important game in front of the Panthers’ faithful was really tough to stomach.
“Every game means a lot to us, especially playing at home. It hits different when we lose at home,” he said.
“We’ve built a fortress at Penrith and we hate losing at home. It hurts us, but we weren’t expecting to play the perfect game for our first game of the year. We have a lot of work to do now leading into Round 1 and we’re going to work hard.”
Penrith are expected to field a much stronger line-up in the season opener against the Broncos on March 3, with the likes of 2022 Clive Churchill Medallist Dylan Edwards and internationals Liam Martin and Scott Sorensen set to return to the side.
Luai said he also needs to step his game up this year if Penrith are to create some more history come October.
“I’ve got to step up… I have more experience under my belt now and I need to take a lot of pressure of Mitch [Kenny] and Nath [Cleary],” the 26-year-old said.
“I need to get my hands on the ball and run the footy more because that’s my strength.”
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.