Panthers star Jarome Luai says he’ll always share a special friendship with former premiership-winning teammate Matt Burton ahead of the side’s clash with Canterbury on Sunday.
Luai and Burton will go head-to-head in the five-eighth battle at CommBank Stadium less than seven months after winning a title alongside the Bulldogs playmaker.
The pair have shared a unique bond throughout their time together at Penrith, going from teammates to rivals in a bid to nab the starting spot when James Maloney left in 2019.
Burton won’t be alone on Sunday with Brent Naden and Tevita Pangai jnr also preparing to take on their former side and reeling after a 48-0 loss to Melbourne last week.
“I think Burto is playing really well and in sometimes a beaten side so it will be pretty cool to come up against him,” Luai said.
“We’ll always have that connection no matter how long or how far we go in the game. He’s a quality player and we’ll have to keep him under wraps.
“I’m sure they’ll be looking forward to it, as will we be. It will be good to see all the boys.”
Bulldog Burton leads the way
Burton’s exit at left centre has seen a change to the Panthers line-up this year with Izack Tago impressing after four matches and Taylan May stepping into Brian To’o’s shoes.
“I’m not sure if Bizza is going to have a spot when he gets back,” Luai joked.
“Tiny’s (May) a freak. He’s young but you back what he does and what he brings to the side.”
For departing Panther Api Koroisau, he could’ve been at the Bulldogs in 2020 before a last-minute deal at Penrith landed him back in Sydney’s west.
“Life is funny like that, it could’ve been so different but it worked out for me being at Penrith and winning a premiership,” Koroisau said.
“I’m grateful for that but definitely looking forward to going up against a few of the boys that were here last year.
They’re another team who work so hard and have been close. If we’re not careful we could be on the chopping block.
“I don’t know if I’m going to be able to hide from Tevita though, he’s pretty good at finding you in the middle.”