Penrith are set for another crack at the last trophy they have never won with a trip to Wigan to contest the World Club…
Penrith are set to be without Jarome Luai for at least the start of the NRL finals with the defending champions revealing their star playmaker has suffered “significant damage” to his shoulder.
Luai has avoided surgery and will instead rehabilitate the injury to try to play a role in the Panthers’ play-off campaign as they attempt to secure a third consecutive premiership.
“The representative playmaker has avoided immediate surgery however there is significant damage to the shoulder,” the club said in a statement on Friday.
“Luai will immediately begin rehabilitation on the injured shoulder in a bid to return during the NRL finals series.”
The star five-eighth dislocated his left shoulder when Parramatta defenders Bryce Cartwright and Joey Lussick twisted Luai awkwardly as they attempted to hold him up in goal during the first half of Thursday’s clash at Penrith Stadium.
Luai remained on the ground after the tackle was completed, cradling his left arm.
The 26-year-old left the field, with his shoulder put back into place in the sheds.
His injury is a major blow to the ladder-leading Panthers, with the finals less than two weeks away.
Luai has been Penrith’s five-eighth throughout four dominant seasons, playing in their 2021 and 2022 premiership teams, and is a cornerstone of their attack on the left edge.
The Panthers rely on his creativity with the football to complement Nathan Cleary, the side’s tactician in the halves.
Jack Cogger switched back to the halves from hooker mid-game against the Eels and filled in admirably, just as he did when halfback Nathan Cleary suffered a hamstring injury against St George Illawarra in early June.
“You’re obviously shattered when you see a teammate go off with what could be a serious injury,” Cogger said.
“Knowing Romey, he’s pretty tough and he’ll bounce back but it’s never good to see your teammates go off the field.”
Cogger insists he would not be daunted by the prospect of playing five-eighth as the season intensified with finals.
After all, Cogger’s job description all along has been to parachute in as the understudy, just as Sean O’Sullivan did for the Panthers in the 2022 season.
“I knew what my job was when I came here,” Cogger said. “I could’ve played one game, I could’ve played the whole year depending on what happened.
“I’ve done the work, this was what I was here to do, in case one of the boys went down or over the Origin period, someone to step in and the team not to lose any momentum. If that is the case, I’m confident I can do the job.”
Like Cleary, Cogger is a natural game-manager so slotted in comfortably while the Panthers’ regular halfback was injured earlier in the year.
Replacing Luai poses a different challenge. The 26-year-old’s running game is his strength and gives the Panthers an X-factor on the left edge.
“I won’t try and be Jarome, he’s a pretty unique player,” Luai said. “I won’t take that full game management role but I think Nath and I have a pretty good relationship and we can come up with a way that will benefit both of us and the team going forward.”
The Panthers’ halfback threw his support behind Cogger.
“Coggs has played enough first grade through his career to know what to do,” Cleary said. “He’s got a cool head on his shoulders.
“I hope that Romey’s all right but I have a lot of faith that me and Coggs can get the job done.”