TIME TO SHINE...Hooker Joel Luani will be looking to carry his good NSW Cup form for Wests Tigers into his NRL debut on Friday night. Photo: Col Marshall


Todd Payten has no doubt debutant Joel Luani can handle the pressure of the NRL when he runs onto Parramatta Stadium this Friday night.


Luani has been chosen at hooker to replace the injured Robbie Farah. Fresh from signing a new two year-deal with Wests Tigers, Luani will become the 166th player to play NRL for the club.


Payten coached Luani last year and says the talented forward was a key man in his teams NYC premiership victory.


His selection is a good reward for a player who has showed plenty of perseverance. He was very good for me last year, Payten said.


Joel played in the back row which was not his preferred position and not once did he complain. He just went out and did the job each week. He is a very reliable player.


Parramatta will look to target him but Joel is a pretty physical and competitive player who will not be overawed. He will go well.


Wests Tigers NSW Cup Coach Paul Fletcher says Luani is a player of the future.


Joel is a pleasure to coach. His work ethic is great and is one of those guys that nothing is a problem for him, Fletcher said.


You can have a chat to Joel about certain aspects of his game and he works on them straight away.


He had been 18th man for the NRL side a few times and not once did it go to his head when he came back to NSW Cup.


Im delighted he will get his chance in first grade. He will bring plenty of enthusiasm and a strong will to win.


Joel Luani details

Born: 16/2/1992, Sydney

Junior Club: Five Dock

Position: Hooker

Height: 180cm

Weight: 92kg

Rep Honours: Australian Schoolboys rugby (2010)

Previous Clubs: Nil