Jarome Luai, one of the most accomplished halves in the game, is preparing to step up to a new role as dummy-half for the New South Wales Blues in the State of Origin. Luai, who boasts two premierships, a 2021 Origin series win and has played in 100 NRL appearances, once forced teammate Nathan Cleary into a bench hooker role in Penrith’s juniors. While Cleary has been a dominant partner for Luai, the Samoan World Cup captain showcased his skills without him, leading his team to a surprise final appearance against the Kangaroos, taking home three man-of-the-match awards and leading all comers for try-assists, offloads, and line-break involvements.
“The World Cup, I had to be that guy and I relished that role,” says Luai of his experience leading his side. “I loved it. I’m a confident guy and if [my coach] needs me to do any role, I’ll back myself to do it for them. I had to take a lot of control in that side, and [for NSW] we’ve got players like Nathan and Teddy [James Tedesco] around so when I come into this arena, my role’s more for the boys around me [on the left-edge] and making them play at their best as well.”
Teammate Brian To’o views Luai’s World Cup role as a turning point in his career, shedding light on his skills as his own player. “He’s always been paired up with Clez a lot and I think that moment at the World Cup to have that to himself and showcase his skills and how he plays on his own.”
Currently, the Blues line-up only has one recognised hooker in Api Koroisau, but Luai, along with utility Nicho Hynes and forward Cameron Murray, are all training to do dummy-half duties in case they’re needed during game one. Having experience as a hooker, Luai is ready to take on the role if required.
The State of Origin can be watched exclusively live and free on Channel 9 and 9Now.