A defiant Jarome Luai says he never had any concerns about aggravating his shoulder injury after manifesting a self belief he could return for Penrith’s bid for an NRL three-peat.
The Panthers emerged with a clean bill of health from Friday night’s 38-4 preliminary-final win over Melbourne, giving them a dream run into their fourth straight decider next week Sunday.
Winger Brian To’o was the chief concern on Friday night after picking up a cork early, but did not require any treatment on Saturday and will take part in a light session on Sunday.
Halfback Nathan Cleary also required stitches above his eye after taking a hit from Josh King in the second half, while Liam Martin is fine after a cut to the face.
But it is Luai’s fitness that will most please the Panthers.
Luai’s season looked to be over when he dislocated his left shoulder against Parramatta a month ago.
But he managed to return on Friday night without the use of painkillers, pulling up fine with only tight strapping slightly limiting the movement of his shoulder.
Luai said from the moment he was hurt he was determined to be back for any Panthers knockout game, maintaining a steely resolve to return for the finals regardless of the diagnosis.
“I’m pretty weird. The boys would say I’m weird because that night I was saying I’d be back in two weeks,” Luai said.
“I didn’t even know what the damage was.
“They think I’m joking about it but I actually really believed that. I manifested and I think that belief was what got me back tonight.”
While his belief never wavered, Luai insisted he was willing to pull himself out of the match if he did not feel he could get through the game.
The 26-year-old also rejected suggestions he was putting his spot in the grand final at risk by playing the Storm.
Concerns had been raised from as high as NSW State of Origin doctor Nathan Gibbs that Luai would likely be injured again once he made contact in defence.
“Tell the doctor I’m built different brother,” Luai said when asked about Gibbs’s comments.
“I didn’t really listen to the outside noise, there was always going to be a lot of that and I didn’t allow doubts to creep into my mind.
“I was always confident that I was going to be ready and put the work in.”
Luai is unsure if he will require post-season surgery hence he’s holding off on deciding whether to play for Samoa in the Pacific Championships.
The No.6 has also put contract negotiations for 2025 and beyond on hold until after the finals, with Penrith keen to wrap him up before he becomes a free agent in November.
“It is (on the back burner) and I think it was important to make that call,” Luai said of negotiations.
“You don’t come by Grand Finals and you want to limit every distraction that you can.
“I’m fully focused on what I need to do for this next week and making surer my mind and body’s right.”