Panthers star Jarome Luai may be a self-confessed NRL villain, but he showed his softer side in heartwarming scenes after Penrith’s incredible grand final win.
The Panthers’ chances of a three-peat in the NRL premiership were gone when the Broncos took a 24-8 lead in the second half with Luai on the bench battling a shoulder injury. But a masterclass from Nathan Cleary finally brought them to life – a great final victory.
WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Panthers fan Nicholas Tadros receives the premiership ring from Jarome Luai.
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Luai has become an inspiration to young Panthers fan Nicholas Tadros, who was left fighting for his life after a helicopter crash near Sea World on the Gold Coast last January.
Tadros’ right leg was amputated following the accident that killed his mother and three others.
Luai visited Tadros in the hospital several times and was invited to the Panthers’ rooms to celebrate with the team.
During the celebrations, Luai went looking for Tadros in the locker room and the two shared a heartwarming moment.
“Good to see you, big boy,” Luai said as he hugged Tadros, who was proudly wearing his Panthers jersey.
Tadros replied, “Nice to see you.”
“Look at the ring, take it off my finger,” Luai said, showing off his premier ring.
Tadros’ eyes lit up as he took the ring from Luai’s finger, held it and said to Luai, “It’s beautiful.”
Tadros had the privilege of wearing the premier ring and joked about how big it was.
“He (Luai) said to me that I am a ‘legend and an inspiration’,” Tadros told 2GB Radio.
“He said, ‘Here, wear my ring, it’s pretty cool’.”
“He started laughing because I said it looked really good on me because he let me try it.
“Then he said ‘I love you’.”
Tadros’ father Simon said it was a special evening for his son.
“It was a fantastic evening,” Simon told 2GB Radio about the experience.
“We were lucky enough to be invited by the NRL to watch the game and see what kind of game it was.”
Simon praised Luai and explained the impact he had on his son’s recovery in hospital.
“He (Luai) had a huge impact,” Simon said.
“Nicky was in a very dark place for quite a while, which was understandable given what he was going through.
“He didn’t talk to anyone and we couldn’t turn him.
“We have contacted the Penrith Panthers and Jarome Luai to see if he can visit Nick.
“To Jarome’s credit, he came over and visited Nick.
“From that day on, Nicholas turned around and started talking again and it put a smile on his face.
“From there, we just started building the positivity around it.”
Simon praised Luai for going out of his way to support his son.
“When he (Luai) saw Nicholas, he immediately called him over, hugged him and started talking to him,” Simon said.
“The fact that Jarome has tried his best to be there for Nick on numerous occasions just shows what kind of person Jarome is.
“He (Nicholas) had such an emotional day yesterday.
“He was super excited to be at the game and when the Broncos were on top he started freaking out and crying a little bit.
“When Nathan Cleary scored that winning try, his reaction was priceless.”
A GoFundMe as Nicholas has raised over $500,000 as he continues his long road to recovery.