Daine Laurie has opened up on his Wests Tigers exit and why it was an “easy decision” to return to the Panthers — even if it is only on a one-year deal.
In an interview with foxsports.com.au the 24-year-old agreed that last season was “100 per cent” his most challenging since breaking into the NRL.
Laurie went from being a joint winner of the Tigers’ Kelly-Barnes Medal in 2021 and being voted Players’ Player in 2022 to losing his spot in the 17 to a rookie in 2023.
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The Tigers were interested in hanging onto him but only on a one-year deal.
The Panthers only had one year to offer too, but Laurie couldn’t pass up the chance to get on board with the three-peat champions and return to where his career began
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“I wanted a couple of years but they weren’t offering it,” Laurie said.
“As soon as Penrith offered to sign me I took it with both hands even though it’s only one year too. To be with a team like Penrith, it’s hard to say no to.”
The Grafton Ghosts junior first joined the Panthers’ system when he played for their SG Ball side in 2017. He rose up the ranks to make his NRL debut in 2020 before signing with the Tigers in a bid to become a “regular first-grader.”
Laurie got exactly that. He played 19 games in each of his first two seasons and went into 2023 more confident than ever.
In fact, in an interview with foxsports.com.au last February, Laurie declared “I reckon this will probably be one of my best years.”
But Laurie’s season didn’t go to plan.
He started the year at fullback but he had an exciting young player by the name of Jahream Bula hot on his heels. In that same interview last February Laurie actually said “you never know you might see him play first grade” when asked about Bula.
An knee injury suffered in Round 2 was the beginning of the end for Laurie at the Tigers. Charlie Staines replaced him at fullback at first, then Adam Doueihi had a stint there before 20-year-old Bula was unleashed in Round 8.
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From that point on the No.1 jersey was Bula’s and Laurie was forced to bide his time in New South Wales Cup.
“That injury interrupted my season,” Laurie said.
“I had heaps of confidence, I had a good pre-season leading into it. I just got unlucky.
“And then Jahream just started carving up so it was hard to get back into that fullback position.
“I just stayed patient and looking back all I did was just play footy and tried hard in Cup.
“When I first went over there (to the Tigers) I played nearly the whole year and the second year too. I kind of got hit with a bit of adversity.”
When asked if that impacted his confidence, Laurie said: “Yeah a little bit at the start but I love ‘Reamy’. He was carving up and I was really happy for him.”
Laurie has genuinely been so impressed by Bula — who won the Kelly Barnes Medal in his rookie season — that he expects him to become “one of the best fullbacks in the next couple of years.”
“He’s a freak. He was the fittest fulla there, he was ripping in at the gym,” Laurie added.
“I knew if he got the chance it’s going to be hard to take the spot off him.”
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Laurie eventually forced his way back into first grade to play nine more games for the Tigers— some of those in the halves.
He has taken a liking to playing five-eighth and now prefers it over fullback.
“I liked fullback but when I played a little bit of five-eighth (I enjoyed it). I like five-eighth (more) now. You get your hands on the ball first instead of getting it out the back of a block,” he said.
It’s the right time to transition into the halves too given Penrith’s No.6 jersey will be up for grabs in 2025 when Jarome Luai joins the Tigers.
When asked if he wants that position, Laurie said: “Yeah, we’ll see what happens.”
There’s a good chance he would’ve answered with more confidence if Penrith’s new halves recruit Brad Schneider, who is also vying for that spot, wasn’t listening in.
But first Laurie will need to secure an extension.
He’s been training at five-eighth, fullback and on the wing and his versatility will no doubt come in hand as the Panthers chase their fourth straight premiership.
Laurie said being on a one-year deal “doesn’t worry” him because he’s “happy as being here.”
“There’s mad vibes around the club. I can’t wipe the smile off my face to be honest,” he added.
“All the boys love coming into training, we get flogged but the boys don’t complain. We just get in there and get it done. And we can all have a laugh too.
“You can tell they all love each other because they always hang out, it shows on the field so I reckon that’s a big one just how tight they are.”
Source website: www.foxsports.com.au