The realisation that he and his three fellow Penrith players – Jarome Luai, Stephen Crichton and Spencer Leniu – may have already had their last games for the premier team, hit Brian To’o hard this week. He shared a deep bond of friendship with Luai, who suffered a dislocated shoulder last weekend. Although Luai is doing his utmost to recover, his return for the preliminary finals is uncertain.
Crichton and Leniu, on the other hand, have a maximum of five games remaining before they leave Penrith to join Canterbury and the Sydney Roosters respectively next year. To’o spoke to the press, sharing his deep friendship with his ‘brothers’ before Saturday evening’s game against North Queensland.
Their bond transcends the boundaries of mere teammates, “They were all in my wedding party and while we’re not related by blood, we’re brothers by choice,” To’o explained. This bond is unique, and while it’s common for teammates to share a camaraderie, To’o’s connection with these boys, who he grew up with, is particularly close.
The anticipated departure has left To’o with “mixed emotions” and he confessed, “To see two of them go their own way is going to be different. It’s a weird feeling.” He expressed his concern for Luai, saying, “It wasn’t nice to see one of your brothers go down last weekend.” He hopes that Luai comes back stronger, whether it’s this year or the next.
To’o has committed to Penrith until the end of 2027. He understands that Crichton and Leniu made their decisions for personal and professional advancements, with Crichton moving to fullback at Canterbury and Leniu securing a front-row position at Bondi. Though he hoped they would all finish their careers as one-club players, he’s happy for them “as long as it’s good for them and their families.”
Positive news came in the form of Dylan Edwards, who has been locked down by the club until the end of 2028. Coach Ivan Cleary also expressed confidence about reaching a satisfactory agreement with Luai, stating, “We’re confident we can offer ‘Romy’ what he is worth, and like Dylan, he’s a Panther, he belongs here, he knows it and we know it.”
Just after Brisbane’s loss at home to Melbourne the previous night, the Panthers find themselves with a very real chance of claiming the minor premiership. All eyes will be on the Rugby World Cup 2023 which fans can catch on Stan Sport, live and without needed adverts, from September 9.