NRL Wests Tigers interim chief executive Shane Richardson.
Wests Tigers' new chief executive Shane Richardson wants Jarome Luai to join his club. Image by Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS
  • rugby league

New Tigers boss Richardson makes pitch to Panther Luai

George Clarke December 13, 2023

Newly installed Wests Tigers chief executive Shane Richardson has wasted no time going on the charm offensive, adamant the NRL club can lure Jarome Luai away from Penrith.

Barely 24 hours after taking the job, Richardson set out his ambitions for the Tigers on Wednesday with Penrith five-eighth Luai front and centre of his vision. 

The veteran administrator was parachuted in to replace Justin Pascoe, who resigned from his role on Tuesday. 

Pascoe’s exit came after a boardroom revolt claimed the scalp of outspoken chairman Lee Hagipantelis. 

Pascoe and Hagipantelis have presided over a club that has picked up the last two wooden spoons and hasn’t played finals in 12 years.

But Richardson, who previously took South Sydney and Penrith from the NRL doldrums to premiership glory, insisted he wanted to make Luai a Tigers player in 2025. 

Off-contract at the end of next season, three-time premiership-winning five-eighth Luai is one of the most sought after targets on the open market and recently met with rookie Tigers coach Benji Marshall.

“I’ve made my feelings on Luai known for a long time,” Richardson said.

“In my opinion, he was the best young half coming through.

“Not only that, he’s a great team leader. That Penrith side revolves around Luai.

“He’s a great person off the field despite what many media people like to try to make out.

“You couldn’t meet a better person than him and you couldn’t ask for a better person at the club.

“I’m not across it yet, so all I want to do is assist Benji to put together the best roster possible.”

Jarome Luai of the Panthers.
 Wests Tigers hope to lure three-time premiership-winning five-eighth Jarome Luai from Penrith. Image by Mark Evans/AAP PHOTOS 

Richardson’s overtures came as Luai’s former Penrith teammate Stephen Crichton was unveiled as a Canterbury player and urged the Panthers No.6 to prioritise his family.

Canterbury, like the Tigers, have been linked with a move for Luai. 

But Richardson bristled at suggestions Luai and prop Addin Fonua-Blake, who will leave the Warriors on compassionate grounds at the end of 2024 to return to Sydney, wouldn’t view the Tigers as an attractive proposition. 

Vowing that Marshall would have the final say in recruitment decisions, the new chief executive said his resume showed he could attract top-line talent to struggling clubs. 

“Why did a player want to come to Penrith when we had won the wooden spoon and all the senior players had wooden spoons put in their letterboxes?,” Richardson said. 

“At Souths when we lost every weekend and the abuse … both those clubs went on to win premierships.

“At the end of the day, they (recruits) want to be part of building a club to greatness again. You can’t put boundaries on it.”

Richardson, who will begin work on January 2, said he viewed the club’s future breeding ground as the Campbelltown region.

The new chief executive, who has been appointed to the role for just six months, said he wouldn’t make a judgement on the future of David Nofoaluma until he had got his feet under the desk.

The winger – the Tigers’ all-time leading tryscorer – has been involved in a dispute over his treatment at the club. 

“I haven’t met David, I don’t know him from a bar of soap so I’m not up to date with the situation,” Richardson said.

“I don’t want to pre-empt what’s going on there all I know is this, the way I work is very simple – firm, fair and polite.”