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Jarome Luai can have a chuckle about it now.

The Panthers and NSW five-eighth is still yet to touch the State of Origin shield after last year's stirring win, despite he and halves partner Nathan Cleary's influential performances to get the Blues a 2-1 series result.

The pair never got a chance to lift the shield together after both missed Origin III last year due to injury and with the COVID-19 pandemic preventing them from attending the final match, they watched on two hours north from the Sunshine Coast. 

It was Luai's first Origin series he'd been a part of and for that reason alone he's got plenty of motivation to ensure the shield is back in his hands in two months.

"It stung a little bit not being there for the last game when we were there for the first two, I actually haven’t touched or seen the shield, I don’t even think we’re allowed to now with it being a new year," Luai told NRL.com.

"It’s a bit weird in that sense. Winning it after the second game and being in lockdown we didn’t really do much with the boys and we didn’t get it presented to us until after the last game.

"Watching the last game and the boys not winning, I’m sure they feel the same way, it was a bit of a weird feeling watching it. Hopefully we can bring it back again and see it this year. We start and go again."

Jarome Luai celebrates with Brian To'o, Latrell Mitchell and Tariq Sims after winning the series in Origin II last year.
Jarome Luai celebrates with Brian To'o, Latrell Mitchell and Tariq Sims after winning the series in Origin II last year. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

Luai has further reason to smile ahead of the 2022 series opener on June 8.

It's the first time he'll be able to wear the sky blue on home turf after NSW played all three games in Queensland last year due to the border closures and lockdowns in greater Sydney.

The inclusions of Panthers teammates Stephen Crichton and Brian To'o add to the occasion, with the Samoan trio looking to replicate their club form together in the representative arena.

"I'm definitely excited, I feel like I’ve only really scratched the surface in rep games," Luai said.

"It’s always a privilege to be amongst those players and that Origin arena is huge.

"I get a bit tingly thinking about our experience last year and just can’t wait to get back in there. I took a lot away from my first series and want to build on that.

"Origin in Queensland was just a wild atmosphere so getting back to NSW and having more of my family and friends in the crowd is extra motivation."

Luai went into Origin camp on Sunday night with the Blues squad set to be based in Coogee throughout the week before they host the Maroons at Accor Stadium.

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