Almost a year after telling Shaun Johnson that he idolised him, Penrith rookie Jarome Luai outscored his childhood hero in a stunning start to his NRL career.
In just his second game of his career, Luai emerged as a start of the future after scoring two tries and having a hand in three more in the Panthers' 36-4 rout of the Warriors.
The lightweight Luai was electric in deputising for State of Origin halfback Nathan Cleary, breaking a game-high eight tackles against a sorry Warriors defence.
He also kicked six goals from eight attempts to finish with 20 individual points, taking full advantage of a forward pack where every player cracked the 100-metre mark.
The win solidifies Penrith's position in fourth spot, having lost their past two games.
It was around this time last year when the then 20-year-old Luai introduced himself to Johnson at a Junior Kiwis camp.
"To play against him was a whole other world. It's crazy. I spoke to him a little bit. I told him I idolised him and he gave me pointers," Luai told AAP.
Panthers coach Anthony Griffin joked that first-choice halves James Maloney and Cleary could struggle to break back into the team.
"(Luai) was good, wasn't he. I've got a couple of halves there in the Blues, they're a bit nervous about when they're coming back," he said.
Despite making just the first start of his career, Luai insists he's confident after a long apprenticeship in the lower grades.
He is one of 10 players from the club's under-20s side that claimed the title in 2015 that have played first grade this year, including Cleary and May.
"(NSW) Cup's pretty good level for me. You're playing against men anyway so I just wanted to come here, feel confident, and defence was a big thing for me tonight as well," he said.
"I was really zoning in on how I was going to defend tonight. Hopefully I've done really well."
Luai and May are a strong chance of having to repeat the effort against Cronulla next week, with the Panthers likely to rest their Origin stars.
"Cronulla's a whole different beast obviously. Without being detrimental to the Warriors, they weren't at their best tonight but I thought we forced them in a way to play that way," he said.
"We'll just take stock over the next couple of days, watch the Origin and see how they feel and pick the best side we think is right for next Friday night."
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