Australia tries to poach Samoan champion

Jarome Luai in action. Photo – Naparazzi

Australian Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga wants Penrith Panthers and New South Wales (NSW) five-eight Jarome Luai to play for Australia in the Rugby League World Cup rather than Samoa.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Meninga would reach out to Luai and make his feelings known about why he should turn his back on Samoa – he is of Samoan descent through his paternal grandparents – and play for Australia.

Luai has in the past indicated he wanted to help Samoa mirror the growth of Tonga on the international stage, but Meninga encouraged the five-eighth to change his allegiance.

Part of NSW’s Origin triumph this year Sunday, the Penrith five-eighth has previously represented Samoa.

Luai, Brian To’o and now Josh Papalii have all expressed their desire to play for Samoa in the World Cup at the end of the year.

Luai told the Herald last month: “When it comes to international footy you should play for who you feel most drawn to. I was brought up in a Samoan church and household and I feel close to my Samoan culture. I definitely think we have a lot of talent, and I want to do well for them.”

While Meninga appreciated Papalii wanting to give back to Samoa at the back end of his career, he said it was a different story with Luai who was 24 and starting out.

According to the Herald, Meninga’s long-term fear is what happens to the strength of the Kangaroos, especially if Australian hopefuls miss out on Origin because of players who later commit to the Pacific nations.

  1. Sapa Saifaleupolu 10 months ago

    I always regard Mel as a great ambassador for rugby league and indeed, he has done an awesome amount of good work in promoting the sport. I understand his position and where he is coming from re Luai playing for Australia. However, following Mel’s desire to lure Luai to play for Australia weakens his status as an ambassador for this great sport. It is no secret that there is limited financial backing for rugby league development in the Pacific Island Nations, but encouraging elite players in NRL to play for their national teams at the international level has been a great success. With the Tongans leading the way in this respect, it will be excellent for the NRL to enthuse island players to represent their nationals teams. This is an ideal strategy to promote this sport at all levels and will make international competition more competitive.

  2. kalolo 10 months ago

    After all these years you invested heavily on pacific island players, you still feel there isn’t enough from them. How selfish and pathetic.

  3. Solo Nala Pamben 10 months ago

    He has all the rights under the sun to do his own decisions. No need to berg him. I’m a Pacific islander especially from Papua New Guinea and I love such a young talented guy who wants to represent his own Island or country. Just give him space and let him do what he desires for.
    Brother Jerome Luai I’m at your back supporting your decision.
    Let NOT Money take our rights away, but do it for your country.
    May the Good Lord of Pacific Islander be with you all through.

  4. Bernard Aliel 10 months ago

    NRL is producing more talented Pacific Nation athletes in rugby league which will see Australia one day have all Pacific Nation athletes representing the Australian Kangaroos

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