Luai and Walsh to renew hostilities

NSW playmaker Jarome Luai is ready to renew hostilities with Maroons superstar Reece Walsh after the duo were sent off in game two of last year’s State of Origin series and “grateful” for the faith shown by new coach Michael Maguire.

Luai and Walsh were involved in a series of heated moments last year with the pair sent from the ground after one of the more fiery exchanges at Suncorp Stadium included the two headbutting each other.

After a heavy loss in Brisbane that night, Luai was dropped for the the third game and feared his final memories in a Blues jersey would be hearing 52,433 Queensland fans give it to him as he walked up the tunnel in the dying seconds.

It was a wild finish to the game as Josh Addo-Carr was sent to the sin bin for throwing a punch before Walsh and Luai lashed out with their heads a few weeks after the Broncos fullback had pulled the Penrith star’s long mane of hair in the series opener.

The three-time premiership winner called him “a bit weak” for the hair pull at the time, but Luai understands his role and knows he can’t afford to spend any time off the field as the Blues look to win back the shield.

“He (Walsh) wears his heart on his sleeve and he’s a competitor because that’s what it takes to get into this Origin arena in the first place,” he said.

“You’ve got to have that chip on your shoulder to get here and then it’s about who is able to connect together better and play as a team.

“I think it (the hair pull) was the first game, that’s Origin, man.

“I’m there to do a job, I don’t want to find myself in the bin or anything like that.

“I wear this jersey with pride and I want to do everything I can to get the win, I’m playing for my family and everyone in NSW so that’s where my passion comes from.”

Luai will partner former touch footy teammate Nicho Hynes in the halves for the series opener in Sydney next week, with his form for Penrith enough to win back his jersey after he was dropped for last year’s dead rubber.

It’s an incredible comeback by a man who had to deal with death threats online 12 months ago, with Cody Walker seemingly in the box seat to wear the No.6 jersey before he joined the long list of injured Blues hopefuls.

Now that he’s got the chance to add to his seven Origin appearances, Luai doesn’t want to waste this opportunity.

“It’s a bit of a different feeling for me, especially after sort of not being there for the last game,” he said, having taken on more of a leadership role with Nathan Cleary injured.

“That was a bit of a realisation for myself, you never know when the last game is in this jersey.

“So you’ve got to make sure that you’re ready come game day and you’re enjoying every moment.

“I’ve always believed in myself and I knew that if I was at my best there was a chance to play Origin.

“I’m really grateful for this opportunity and that Madge has entrusted me especially after I left the jersey so I’m really grateful for that.”

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