Battling kids get a kick from Luai’s rise
THE parents of Penrith fiveeighth Jarome Luai have shared their joy at their son’s career-defining grand final victory, saying his rags-to-riches story has inspired other young western Sydney kids to dream big.
From humble beginnings as a Mt Druitt kid whose family at times struggled to put food on the table, the Panthers young gun has transformed himself into an NRL star with a grand final win behind him.
Speaking outside their Dharruk home, parents Martin and Ramauko Luai said they couldn’t be prouder of their son, who plans to use his success to buy his family a house.
“He’s doing really good. He rang us out on the field. He was very emotional and happy. It’s a dream come true,” Mr Luai said of the Panthers’ 14-12 win over South Sydney on Sunday.
Hundreds of fans poured into the street outside the Luai family home within minutes of the game finishing, celebrating for an hour until riot police came to disperse the crowds.
“Celebrations were crazy last night. The streets were just chock-a-block,” Mr Luai said.
The constant horn blaring and cheers echoing through the suburb on Monday morning highlighted the community’s devotion to the Panthers.
Luai, 24, has become a ragsto-riches success story in the area, with his mother saying he has inspired many local kids to get involved in footy.
For all his success, Luai’s life hasn’t been without hardship. His father Martin was absent for 2½ years while serving time in prison for drug trafficking.
A hand injury he sustained while saving Jarome’s junior Panthers teammate Casey Lafaele from drowning left Martin unable to work and forced him to take desperate measures as the family struggled to put food on the table.