Ahead of his maiden NRL Grand Final appearance, Penrith five-eighth Jarome Luai has expressed his desire to remain a Panther for life.
The 23-year old is just one of a six Penrith starters that are set to come off contract this off season, meaning that he will be able to scour the marketplace from November 1st (next Sunday).
Although he will be afforded the opportunity to shop his wares, Luai is desperate to remain at the foot of the Blue Mountains and continue his long term halves partnership with Nathan Cleary.
As expected, the Samoan international has been in high demand. Luai’s agent Darryl Mather disclosed to NRL.com reporter Dan Walsh that South Sydney wire-puller Shane Richardson has long held interest in securing Luai’s services.
Walsh revealed last month that upwards of 30 phone calls were made from Richardson to Mather in an effort to lure his client up the Western motorway.
It has been reported that although the Panthers and their playmaker have bigger fish to fry this week, they are as keen to retain him as he is to stay.
With the November 1 signing date fast approaching, a relaxed Luai spoke to NRL Media on Tuesday about his future.
“I’ll look for Penrith to sign me, we’ll see how that goes,” Luai said.
“This is my home. It’s a childhood dream come true.
“I get to play in my backyard every day, train every day. It’s about a 15-minute drive from home, not too far just down the road. I want to be here for life.”
Following a query surrounding Richardson’s relentless interest, the jovial playmaker had this to say.
“I saw that article and Darryl didn’t really mention [Richardson’s interest] to me.
“I think he knew my intentions and where they lie. I’m a Mt Druitt boy at heart so I’m glad I stayed.
“I think he knew what was waiting for me here at Penrith with my future. I came through the grades with a lot of these boys as well so I just had to bide my time and I’m glad I did.”
The Panthers are set to have a busy off-season with Matt Burton, Kurt Capewell, Stephen Crichton, Mitchell Kenny, Spencer Leniu, Brent Naden, Isaah Yeo, Zane Tetevano and Josh Mansour all set to finish contracts next season.
Although Crichton is suggested to have agreed to terms on a three year deal, despite what could be a premiership winning year, some of these names could follow James Tamou (Wests), Caleb Aekens (Canberra) and Jack Hetherington (Canterbury) through the exit door.
Although he will be directly opposed to him in Sunday night’s decider, Luai also spoke about his admiration for Storm number six Cameron Munster.
“He’s so instinctive. He’s a big frame and when he runs the ball, he runs to break the line,” Luai said.
“I want to be like that, I want to play what is in front of me.
“When I was starting to come into grade, he’d played a few Origin games and was killing it.
“I was like ‘far out, he’s crazy.’ I’m thinking I want to play like him.
“He stepped off his left foot four times and made a line break, I was like ‘I want to be like that guy.’
“He’s a freak on the field and a good guy off the field. I can’t wait to go up against him.”
The pair of talented five-eighths will face of for the NRL’s greatest prize at ANZ Stadium this Sunday night.