Panthers superstars Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai have revealed the extent of the injuries they battled through en route to a historic threepeat.
Luai had surgery on Monday when he went under the knife to fix the left shoulder he dislocated on the eve of finals.
The 26-year-old returned two weeks ahead of schedule to play in the preliminary final, but lasted just 52 minutes in the decider.
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That’s when Cleary stepped up in his absence to deliver one of the most extraordinary grand final performances of all time.
Physiotherapist Brien Seeney, known as NRL Physio on social media, believes Luai will return in time for Round 1 of the 2024 season, which is shaping as the five-eighth’s last at Penrith amid big-money offers from rivals.
“Shoulder reconstruction surgery done for Jarome Luai – 5 months til Round 1 2024 & a general recovery range of 3-5 months. Good chance he is available to kick off next season,” Seeney posted.
Luai, who will hit the open market on November 1 to field offers for 2025 and beyond, posted a photo from hospital alongside his daughter, Akira.
The injury ruled Samoa star Luai out of the inaugural Pacific Championships and meant he watched from home as his nation lost the World Cup final rematch against Australia in Townsville last Saturday night.
Cleary also posted a photo on social media of the dislocated finger that threatened to derail the Panthers’ season on the eve of the preliminary final.
Cleary’s right ring finger was injured after it was hit be a rogue football at training, but he played and Penrith beat rivals Melbourne comfortably to book their fourth straight grand final berth.
The 25-year-old then strapped the finger for the grand final and delivered the greatest final 20 minutes from any player in history as the Panthers reeled in a 24-8 deficit to win it 26-24 at the death.
Originally published as Panthers stars Luai and Cleary reveal true extent of finals injuries