Jarome Luai's father Martin has revealed he urged his son to walk out of the Panther's two years ago in an emotional interview with the The Sydney Morning Herald.
Jarome, who made his debut for the Panthers in 2018 and has since played 52 games and scored 10 tries, will make his first Origin appearance in Game 1 in Townsville after being selected in NSW coach Brad Fittler's side.
Martin, who was serving a two-year prison sentence when Jarome made his NRL debut, shared the emotional text message he sent his son upon learning the news of his selection.
“Never in doubt son,” the text message from Martin read.
“Who would have thought only a few years ago you were striving to get a start in grade and how quickly things have escalated. Well deserved and it is a testament to your drive and willingness to raise the bar and be the best at what you do.
“You’ve gone above and beyond all our expectations and you’re about to play at the highest level of the game. Doesn’t get much better than this son and we’re loving every moment of it. Enjoy it, embrace it and give it your all son. We’re all so proud of you and I’m the most proudest father ever. Love you.”
Martin also revealed that he had advised his son to leave the Panthers for better opportunities elsewhere, but Jarome was persuaded to stay by former Penrith coach Gus Gould.
“I was always upset but he never looked much into it,” Martin said.
“His mind was set no matter how much venting I did. I told him, ‘You need to think about your future and you’re not getting anywhere at Penrith sitting there not playing’.
“He still had a year or two left on his contract and Jarome was sitting there waiting behind James Maloney. I told him all this and he would sit there and cop it. He genuinely believed it was better for him to bide his time and soak in everything from Maloney. His manager and Gus Gould said to him, ‘Your time will come’.
“They didn’t want him to discard his combination with Cleary because that’s not something you can manufacture anywhere else. I don’t think he was ever going to take my advice on leaving Penrith. He knew and understood where I was coming from being frustrated. He was frustrated too, but he had mentors giving him advice.
“He had grown through the lower ranks and juniors with Gus Gould. He was always there and someone he took advice from for many years. There was no way he wasn’t going to listen to him. He had helped get him to where he is today and I’m glad he got there.”
Luai experienced a breakout season in 2020 which saw him named in the NSW 27-man squad, though the 24-year-old didn't play in the series.
A key part of Penrith's undefeated start to the 2021 season, Luai is keen to prove himself at Origin level.
"That's why I understood if I was a bit of a gamble for coach to pick, just because I don't have too much experience," Luai told ESPN.
"I'm just really grateful and happy to be here with the boys.
"I don't have to change too much [to take club form to Origin], I just have to do what got me here and play with that flair and confidence that I do at Penrith. Not getting frightened by the occasion"
Luai has been named at five-eighth alongside Panthers halves partner Nathan Cleary for NSW, who will face the Maroons on June 9 in Townsville.
The duo are two of seven Penrith players named in the Origin setup, with Isaah Yeo, Kurt Capewell, Liam Martin, Brian To'o and Api Koroisau also named in their respective squads.