‘Significant damage’: Panthers confirm Luai blow

Panthers five-eighth Jarome Luai has avoided surgery for now and is hoping to return during the finals after he dislocated his shoulder in Thursday’s shock loss to Parramatta.

Luai was sent for scans on Friday morning, with the club confirming he suffered “significant” damage to his left shoulder and must now go through an extensive rehab program to recover in time for the finals that start in two weeks.

“Luai suffered a shoulder dislocation in the first half of the round 26 match and soon after had the shoulder relocated by medical staff in the dressing sheds,” the statement read.

“The representative playmaker has avoided immediate surgery however there is significant damage to the shoulder.

“Luai will immediately begin rehabilitation on the injured shoulder in a bid to return during the NRL finals series.”

Luai came off midway through the first half when his left arm got trapped under Bryce Cartwright, who prevented him from scoring a try.

It’s a major blow for the two-time defending premiers who could surrender top spot on the ladder by the end of the round if the Broncos beat Canberra.

“That’s the way it goes sometimes. There are often a lot of injuries at this time of the year in and around the finals,” Panthers coach Ivan Cleary said after the game.

“Whatever happens, we’ll come up with a plan from there.”

Jack Cogger will replace Luai in the halves going forward, with the journeyman looking solid in limited opportunities this season in his first year with the club following stints with Newcastle and Canterbury, as well as time in England.

The 26-year-old has played nine games this season having filled in at halfback while Nathan Cleary was injured, while he’s had to play five-eighth and hooker in recent weeks before he returns to the Knights next season.

Cogger doesn’t have the same flair that makes Luai one of the best five-eighths in the competition, but he has his own set of skills that could help the Panthers win a third-straight title.

“I won’t try to be Jarome because he’s a pretty unique player,” Cogger said after the 32-18 loss where he switched from hooker to the halves.

“It will probably change a bit because I won’t take that full game management role, but I think Nathan and I have a pretty good relationship and we can come up with a way that will benefit both of us and the team going forward.

“It’s shattering when you see a teammate go off with what could be a serious injury. Knowing Romey, he’s tough, so he’ll bounce back but it’s never good to see your teammates leave the field.

“But I’ve done the work and this is what I was brought here to do in case one of the boys went down or over the Origin period where they needed someone to step in so the team wouldn’t lose any momentum.

“If that is the case then I’m confident that I can do the job.

“I knew what my job was when I came at the start of the year.

“I could have played one game or I could have played the whole year depending on what happened.

“The way the year has played out means I’ve played a couple of games when Nathan has been out or when Romey has been out, so I’ll just be ready no matter what going until the end of the year.”

The Panthers should get Sunia Turuva and Dylan Edwards back next week, but all eyes will be on how Cogger combines with Cleary given he and Luai know each other’s games inside out.

“I’m confident and I have faith in it,” the champion halfback said of their combination.

“Cogs has played enough first grade in his career to know what he has to do, and he’s got a cool head on his shoulders, so we can keep developing that.

“I’m hoping Romey is all right, but I’m pretty confident and I’ve got a lot of faith that Cogs and I can get the job done.

“It sucks (that Luai got injured). You don’t want to see someone get injured ever, let alone one of your good mates who is such an important cog in our team.

“That’s the game we play, and these things happen.

“I’m hoping we get a good result for him, but if not, we just have to keep pushing forward.”

Originally published as Jarome Luai avoids surgery but no guarantees he’ll be back for the finals

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