The last ride: Jarome Luai’s emotional Penrith Stadium tribute

Jarome Luai. Photo: NRL Photos.
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In less than six months, Penrith Stadium as we know it will be no more.

The grass will be cut for the final time, the last line will be marked on the field, and the stadium lights will be flicked off once and for all.

It’ll also be the last time some players will call Penrith Stadium their home.

One of those is outgoing Panther Jarome Luai.

It’s no secret that the three-time premiership winner considers Penrith Stadium his happy place.

The place he grew up.

The place he made a name for himself.

His home away from home.

Jarome Luai chats with journalist Nathan Taylor. Photo: Melinda Jane.

Luai has scored some scintillating tries at the Mulgoa Road and Ransley Street venue – who can forget his double against the Warriors in just his second game of first grade back in 2018.

He’s also welcomed not one, not two, but three of his children onto the famous pitch to celebrate a memorable win, like last week’s triumph over the Brisbane Broncos.

“It’s my favourite place to play and I think I have a good record there when it comes to winning and losing games,” Luai told Extra Time.

“It’s a place that I will always love and cherish and have fond memories of.”

But long before Luai was pulling on an NRL jumper for the Panthers, he was running around Penrith Stadium as a teenager playing for his local club St Marys as well as Penrith’s star-studded junior representative sides.

Luai’s family would be there in the crowd, including his dad Martin who would watch his son go around in the Holden Cup from high up in the western grandstand.

Jarome Luai. Photo: Melinda Jane.

“I’ve played club Grand Finals there for St Marys, so the history for me goes way back to U16s, U17s, trialling for Harold Matts etc,” Luai said.

“I’ve got plenty of memories, plenty of good memories there, and I believe my best footy has been played there up until this point.”

Following the Panthers’ final home game of the year this September, Luai will wave goodbye to Penrith Stadium (or Romey’s Place) one final time as he embarks on the next chapter of his career at the Wests Tigers.

While Luai has been pushing ‘The Last Ride’ slogan all summer due to his own personal circumstances, he says it also relates to farewelling the stadium too.

“It’s a bit of a common theme… ‘The Last Ride’ is a theme in terms of the stadium and playing group, but it’s a bit of a personal one for myself as well,” he said.

Jarome Luai with one of his children. Photo: NRL Photos.

When the 27-year-old does eventually return to his old stomping ground – most likely in the 2026 season – the stadium will have undergone a $300 million transformation and the emblem on his chest will be different type of cat.

“It’s probably a good thing to be honest, the timing – the stadium will look different and so will my jersey… maybe I won’t have that sort of connection to the new place but who knows, man,” Luai said.

“At this point in time, Penrith Stadium is a place that I love and a place where we want to make every game this year count.”

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