Penrith star Jarome Luai is free to play in game one of State of Origin after avoiding a suspension for his careless high shot on North Queensland’s Scott Drinkwater on Friday night.
New South Wales coach Brad Fittler names his 22-man list on Sunday night and he will also be relieved. The incident happened late on in Penrith’s 22-0 win over the Cowboys.
Jarome Luai escapes suspension
Luai got his timing wrong when catching Drinkwater high. He was placed on report and faced an anxious wait to learn his fate. And it is good news for Luai and New South Wales. The NRL match-review committee deemed it a grade one offence.
It means Luai can accept a $1000 fine and avoid a suspension. The playmaker is now free to face Queensland on 8th June. Fittler can breathe again as the five-eighth is crucial to NSW’s chances of success.
Meanwhile the Panthers go into the Origin series four points clear at the top of the ladder. Coach Ivan Cleary could now lose up to seven players to the Blues.
It was a similar scenario 12 months ago and the Panthers struggled without their star players. Understandably so. But they recovered and went on to win the premiership. Cleary says lessons have been learnt from last year and they will be able to soldier on.
“We’re probably a little bit more aware of it this year,” Cleary said. “Just the experience around things like, you don’t realise how different training is for six weeks when these guys are gone or come in for a bit and are gone again.”
Ivan Cleary salutes Penrith performances
The Panthers have suffered just the one defeat so far this season, losing to Parramatta. On Friday night they faced another banana skin against the Cowboys.
Todd Payten’s men are flying and had won six on the bounce heading into the game. They may be seen as a genuine title contender but Penrith put them to the sword 22-0.
There will be more tests to come for sure. But Cleary is delighted with the way his side are handling being the reigning premiers.
“This is our first go at being premiers,” Cleary added. “Everyone tells you that everyone gets up when they play you, and that’s exactly what’s happened from the very first game. Our boys have handled that so well.”