Penrith sent a warning shot to the rest of the competition with one of their most dominant finals performances of all time, but they could get even stronger in two weeks with Jarome Luai on track to return from a shoulder injury.
The champion five-eighth missed the 32-6 rout of the Warriors which was their biggest ever finals victory.
The result means they get a week off before they face either the Storm or the Roosters, and that’s great news for Luai who is telling everyone who’ll listen that he will be good to go in time for the preliminary final.
“He tells me he’s right every week so I don’t know how much we can believe that stuff,” halfback Nathan Cleary said of his great mate who dislocated his shoulder in Round 26.
“That’s just who he is. He has confidence and he manifests things. Half the battle is in the mind and he’s flying there as well.
“Romey is an amazing player and an amazing asset to our team so it would be great to have him back.
“You want to be on the field because it’s a special time going on and it’s a great opportunity for us. You want to be playing this time of the year, and it’s no different for him.
“He’s always hungry, but probably even more so at the moment.”
Jack Cogger has done a fantastic job filling in at five-eighth and may have done enough to earn the bench utility spot if Luai does come back for their preliminary final which will most likely be at Accor Stadium.
The injury had the potential to derail their quest for three-straight titles, but an upbeat Luai ensured spirits remained high at the foot of the mountains.
“It’s frustrating for everyone else because he’s pretty annoying,” Cleary joked.
“It’s a lot better to have him back on the field, but he’s in good spirits. He’s keeping that same energy, and that means a lot to the team.
“He’s a big part of what we are as a culture.”
Cleary and Luai have been like Batman and Robin over the years, but the representative halfback turned into Cinderella on Saturday in one of the best performances of his incredible career.
The 25-year-old has achieved plenty in the game but he did something he’s never done before when he set up Liam Martin for a first-half try despite playing with just one boot.
It was a piece of quick thinking that blew the game wide open, with Cleary then showing how damaging he is with two boots on when he torched the Warriors’ left edge defence to score a stunning solo try at the death.
“It’s high praise, but I’m definitely no Cinderella,” Cleary said of his glass slipper moment.
“It was a bit of a weird moment. I was on the ground and I was going to put my boot on but I thought I’d miss an opportunity if I did that so I got up and Marto ran a great line.
“You could feel the ruck speed was pretty quick so you don’t want to miss those in a finals game.”
Originally published as ‘He manifests things’: Luai on track for prelim final return, Cleary dismisses “fairytale” chat after Cinderella moment