Most of these guys are about to get the week off. Picture; Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

‘I want to play’: No rest for Jarome Luai with Panthers star looking to take on the Cowboys

Jarome Luai has stated that he will face the Cowboys next week as speculation has circulated that the Panthers could rest most of their squad before the final game of the regular season in Townsville.

The Panthers have already completed their second minor premiership in three years and there is no need to risk injury so close to the final, but Luai, who returned Friday night after missing four games with a knee injury, is keen to play.

Coach Ivan Cleary may not let him, but at least the five-eighth is excited.

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Jarome Luai wants to play, but his coach may not allow him. Image; Mark Metcalfe/Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

“I want to play every week. If the body is okay, I raise my hand to play,” he said.

“I’ll be back at ‘Iv”s office this week to let him know I’m sweet to play. I’m sure the coach has a plan, so we’ll see what happens.”

What the Panthers do next week may amount to what happens on Saturday in the reserve league, with the Panthers pushing for the small premiership and a week off before the first round of the final.

They have to say goodbye this week and need the third-placed Bulldogs to knock off the ladder-leading Jets to sneak into first place.

If that happens, Cleary will be able to call in as many players as he wanted from the NSW Cup squad, knowing they won’t be needed for a final game in their league.

“I’ve got some plans, but we’ll see how everyone stops,” Cleary said, as the Panthers were scheduled to fly everyone back from Townsville on a charter Saturday night.

“We’ve been in a good position for a while now. We’ll sleep on it and see how everyone pulls up. Then we’ll see what we’re going to do.

“I’ve never been one to necessarily give people peace of mind, but every situation is different and every year is different. There are so many factors involved.”

Luai was at his best in the 46-12 demolition of the Warriors in what was a major hit for him before the final.

Jarome Luai had the best seat in the house for the win in round 23 at South Sydney. Image; Cameron Spencer/Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

The representative five-eighth was not expected to return for another week, but returned early for the second year in a row after a similar knee injury kept him out of the third Origin game last year.

“I felt really good, I was very confident all week and got a lot of reps and the guys tested me pretty hard in training and I was really confident that I would get through the game,” said Luai.

“It Was Worse” [than last year]. I completely tore it up this time, so I wasn’t nervous.

‘My wife was cooking some good food at home, so that might have helped.

“I’m a pretty quick healer, so grateful to be back on the field and playing a game with the boys.

‘I’m fresh, I took it as a blessing in disguise that I got a few weeks off. The body was a bit battered, but very grateful to go into the final.”

In a warning to the rest of the competition, Luai says he and his suspended partner Nathan Cleary won’t be rusty when the finals roll around, even though they haven’t played together since round 19.

The NSW halves are in perfect sync and go into the final. Image; Annette DewSource: News Corp Australia

“We did a lot of reps last week, just me and him,” he said.

“There aren’t many guys in rehab so we spent some time together on the pitch just chatting about things.

“People see it as a negative that you are out for a few weeks, but we feel very good when we go to the final.”

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