Jarome Luai, a playmaker for the Blues, is feeling confident heading into the Ampol State of Origin series after his leadership role with Samoa’s World Cup team in their stunning run to the finals last year. Despite questions surrounding his ability as a playmaker without his teammate Nathan Cleary, Luai is determined to make his mark on this year’s series. His role in the team is to lift the energy and make the boys around him be their best, regardless of who else is on the field.
Luai acknowledged that he had to take a lot of control in Samoa’s side, but he enjoys playing footy, learning new things and exceeding his own expectations. The Panthers five-eighth will have to focus on his role in the Blues rather than attempting to control it all. He recognises the strengths of his teammates, like Nathan Cleary and Tedesco, and that they play well together, having a combination that locks in their roles and allows them to know what to do during the game.
Luai’s versatility could see him switch to the hooker position during the game, as Nicho Hynes is waiting on the bench. The Panthers premiership-winner will team up with Hynes, his former teammate in NSW touch football as a teenager, after spending months competing with him for a Blues jersey. He acknowledges that there is always some pressure in a big team like the Blues, with someone ready to take his spot if he doesn’t perform, but it is a reminder to himself that it is a blessing to be here.
Luai is experienced in the hooker position, having played a lot of number nine in a Panthers jersey, with Ivan Cleary getting him in the middle for a few stints. He has also played nine for 20-30 minutes in a Blues jersey and is willing to fill in for Api Koroisau if needed. With Nicho or himself available as a backup, Cam Murray could also change positions. The Blues have many options, but they want to ensure that they can nail their roles and be ready for any scenario that the game may throw at them.