- Luai was captured on video during a moving exchange after the win
- Star befriended 10-year-old Nicholas Tadros after a crash
- Survivor called an inspiration in locker rooms
Panthers grand final star Jarome Luai was filmed in a heartwarming moment with Sea World helicopter crash survivor Nicholas Tadros after his team’s comeback win over Brisbane on Sunday night.
Nicholas lost his mother and was seriously injured in the horrific incident on January 2, which left a total of four people dead and nine injured.
He broke almost every bone in his body in the accident and also had his right leg amputated.
When the 10-year-old woke up from the coma and heard the shocking news, he didn’t want to talk to anyone, but Luai changed that.
Luai (pictured with Nicholas Tadros and his family) befriended the 10-year-old and had a major influence on his prospects as he fought back from the helicopter crash
Nicholas’ father Simon Tadros wanted to help his heartbroken son, so the family contacted his favorite team, the Penrith Panthers – and Luai answered the call.
The effect Number 6 had on the wounded youth was simply astonishing.
“After Jarome came, I started talking to people again,” Nicholas said Sydney Morning Herald.
‘I love him. When he came to visit me, I felt like he was family to me. I hope I can continue to see him. It meant everything to me. More than ever.’
The pair’s relationship created another emotional moment in the dressing rooms after Penrith’s 26-24 win gave them their third successive premiership.
“Good to see you, big boy,” Luai says to Nicholas in a video of them meeting in the middle of the Panthers’ festivities.
Nicholas said he didn’t feel like talking to anyone until he was visited by the Penrith star
‘Good to see you!’ Nicholas answers.
“Look at the ring, take it off,” the five-eighth tells him as his young mate removes the premiership jewels from his finger.
‘That’s nice!’ Nicholas tells him, before Luai urges him to try it on and says they should get a photo.
Then Nicholas told radio station 2GB about his conversation with his hero.
‘He told me I am a legend, an inspiration. Here he said wear my ring and said it’s pretty cool.
“He started laughing because I said it was hard for me, because he let me try, and then he said, I love you.”
Chairman of the ARL Committee, Peter V’landys, organized a corporate suite for Nicholas and his father so they could attend the grand final.
Before the match, Luai expressed his admiration for the young survivor.
Luai now requires surgery after being unable to complete the grand final as he aggravated a shoulder injury
“He was going through some pretty tough times when I saw him. You appreciate what you have in moments like that,” he said.
“To know that I had such an impact on his little life, it means so much.”
Luai failed to finish at the end of the Grand Final after re-injuring his left shoulder, leaving him on the sidelines for weeks after dislocating it in Round 26 against Parramatta.
It now seems certain that he will undergo surgery on the joint, which he damaged in a tackle towards the end of the first half.
Penrith now have less than a month to sign Luai to a new contract before he can entertain offers from rival clubs for the 2025 season.
The five-eighth has been linked with a move to the Bulldogs, which would see him earn more money than he can at Penrith but lose the family bond he shares with his teammates following their incredible success.