Jarome Luai is set to tell his side of the story in a new documentary series based on the success of the Panthers, revealing the toll of social media abuse on his family.
In the brand-new 9Now series “Undisputed”, the superstar five-eighth and his partner will recollect some of the vile and nasty comments received online, which included racism and death threats during last year’s State of Origin series.
Luai has been a polarising figure in NRL circles for the past few years, with his brash on-field persona and Penrith’s continued dominance over their rivals rubbing plenty of opposition players and fans the wrong way.
READ MORE: Why the Mahomes-Brady comparisons remain premature
READ MORE: Rabbitohs star in doubt for historic Las Vegas opener
READ MORE: A-League star scolded for ‘astonishing’ missed chance
But in the upcoming program, Luai’s long-time partner – Bailey Paris Toleafoa – revealed the full impact of the negative comments and messages.
“I’m glad our kids don’t know how to read,” she said.
“Some things people just shouldn’t say. Our main thing is to protect our kids from seeing that stuff.
“The Romey that you see outside is energetic, a loud mouth, all that – but he comes home and is completely different.”
The height of backlash directed at Luai came after NSW’s loss at Suncorp Stadium to the Maroons, which ultimately sealed their fate and the series and saw the No.6 dumped for the final match in Sydney.
It prompted a controversial response from the Penrith star, who urged his critics to back off, labelling them as ‘idiots’ that would ‘have work tomorrow morning’.
In a candid reflection during the docuseries, Luai doubled down on the post and reiterated the fact it was only a response to the vitriol he and his family had received.
“Everyone got angry with that post, but it was a laugh for me,” he said.
“It still is a laugh for me, and I don’t really regret it. There are a lot of people who can give it but not cop it. I don’t know how offensive that post was, but it was aimed at the people who know who they were and knew what they wrote.
“I don’t know how many messages there were that night. It got to 999, then [Instagram] puts a cap on it. It doesn’t go any higher after that. All the messages are bad: racism, it’s everything you can think of. I’m just glad it’s me. It could be one of the young boys here at the club who might not have the same resilience or strength.
“They [family] were the ones always telling me how angry they were about [the abuse]. I try to educate them that I can use it as motivation as well.
The Mole’s top 15 halves in the NRL in 2024
“I don’t want the emotions of rugby league to come back and affect my family – I want to make sure they never see me frustrated; it’s about leaving footy outside”
With the clock ticking down until the 2024 season, Luai will be playing his final season at the foot of the Mountains before heading to the Wests Tigers on a multi-year deal.
The 27-year-old officially put pen to paper on a move to Concord worth an estimated $6 million over five seasons, making him one of the game’s highest-paid stars.
Penrith will kick off their NRL campaign against the Storm on March 8.
Episode one of Undisputed will premiere on 9Now at noon on Friday, February 16.