Panthers teammates are confident Jarome Luai will be ready to go for Friday night’s preliminary final against the Storm as the star five-eighth looks to return from a shoulder injury.
Luai joined the main squad on Sunday morning for a field session and looked comfortable but his main test is set to come on Wednesday when the Panthers have an opposed session where he is expected to undergo contact training.
Club medical staff have always been hopeful Luai, who dislocated his shoulder less than a month ago against the Eels on August 24, would be available for the preliminary final with last week’s break giving him valuable time to rehab.
“He should be good,” departing centre Stephen Crichton said after the session on Sunday.
“He was running around today and it was good to see him back out there with his loudmouth and energy.”
Panthers prop Matt Eisenhuth, who is among those likely to be testing Luai’s shoulder in the coming days as the game nears, believed the premiership-winning playmaker was on track to play.
“I haven’t been asked to yet [to test him out] but if that’s what he needs then I will,” Eisenhuth said.
“If he does need to do something like that though he’ll call out some of the bigger boys because that’s what he would do to show everyone he’s sweet.
“There might be one or two more tests he’s got to do but at the moment I’m backing him in.”
Panthers winger Sunia Turuva said Luai’s expected return on the left edge alongside he and Crichton was a boost ahead of the grand final qualifier at Accor Stadium.
Luai has been part of all three preliminary and grand finals the Panthers have played since 2020 as Turuva prepares to enter his first on Friday.
“He’ll bring the experience and overall is a real calm head,” Turuva said.
“He’s played in big games now with Samoa World Cup games, Origin and grand finals.
“Cogs (Jack Cogger) has been awesome for us though too. If Romey isn’t right then we’ll just stick to what we’ve been doing and build on that.”
Meanwhile, Panthers centre Izack Tago is also on track to be available after joining teammates at training as he looks to return from a pectoral strain in time for Friday night’s clash.
Tago has been restricted to 14 games in 2023 but is likely to be included in Ivan Cleary’s squad named on Tuesday.