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Grand final replay leaves Luai craving for more

Most players who have tasted grand final defeat will tell you they haven't watched a single minute of the replay unless it flashes up on a big screen.

That's not how it has gone down at the Panthers over the summer.

Livewire five-eighth Jarome Luai revealed one of coach Ivan Cleary's first planned sessions back with the Panthers involved watching a replay of the 2020 decider.

The screening was optional for players to attend but the 24-year-old said an overwhelming majority of the squad was in attendance.

"We did watch it, as a group together, and did a bit of analysing around what we could've done better and what we did well," Luai tells NRL.com.

"It was good to get it out of the way and move on. Before that, we all dealt with it in our own way.

"I could only watch 20 minutes of it by myself before I turned it off and ran to my PS4. I thought 'stuff this' … it rattled me a bit, when you're 20-0 down.

"You're lying in bed and thinking about the opportunity that was right in front of you. Grand finals rarely come around and the biggest prize was right in front of us.

"We'll hold onto that feeling and use that for this year and many years to come."

Luai laments lesson in emotional grand final loss

The move was a strategical approach by Cleary, who didn't want the squad to dwell on the result or forget about their achievements prior to the six-point loss to Melbourne in October – their first in 18 games.

While the team's incredible run won't be forgotten any time soon, Luai is well aware they'll need to lift another gear to go one step further in 2021.

"The energy is still high and there are the same vibes as last year," Luai said.

"We're probably going to be hunted every week and that's something we've spoken about but now we've got a taste and know it takes to get back there we're all buzzing for the season to start again."

If you ask Luai, whose "humble" new left-edge teammates Stephen Crichton and Brian To'o were nearby blaring their large speaker after the interview, he's been ready to put the boots back on and torment the opposition again since November.

The State of Origin series, played just a week after the grand final defeat, also softened the mental blow for the Blues hopeful who was picked in the extended NSW squad but wasn't used by Brad Fittler across the three-week campaign.

"I didn't think I'd ever be there, I never saw myself in the Blues jersey until I got put in the squad," Luai said.

"I knew when I got picked it was a big accomplishment. Being around those types of players who are all professional was a big positive to me and I bring a lot of knowledge back here to Penrith."

The best of Jarome Luai's breakout 2020 season

Despite a glimpse into the Origin arena, Luai remains committed to representing Samoa at the World Cup later this year.

Reflecting on former Wests Tigers and Panthers hooker Masada Iosefa, who tragically passed away earlier in the week, Luai said there was a goal to follow in Iosefa's footsteps and play in Samoan colours alongside the strong contingent at the club.

"[Iosefa] was one of the first players to make it to the big stage, play for Samoa and be from Mt Druitt," Luai said.

"He was a role model for a lot of the boys. We knew him for his work ethic and a lot of us looked up to him.

"Samoa is my first thought. We've got a lot of boys here who have been brought up in that culture as well.

"If we can all get a spot in that side it would be pretty crazy, all the boys from Mt Druitt playing for Samoa. We'll be doing it for our families but the area as well."

The Panthers' 2020 season review

With a contract extension beckoning for one of the game's rising playmakers, Luai insists his future won't be driven by money.

NRL.com understands a new contract extension is expected to be confirmed before the Panthers' round one clash against the Cowboys.

"My biggest fear is letting the boys down," Luai said.

"It's always been like that. I play the game like it's my last. I'm not thinking about contracts.

"We've already got that connection off the field so we'll take that on the field and play as brothers."