Luai one week away from NRL return

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Jarome Luai is expected to come back from a knee injury next week but Penrith won't pencil in a return date for NSW halves partner Nathan Cleary just yet.

The Panthers confirmed on Saturday they plan on backing up their five State of Origin players against the Warriors, including forwards Isaah Yeo and Kurt Capewell.

The duo, along with Api Koroisau, Brian To'o and Liam Martin, are all in their squad for Sunday's match as they prepare for their run at a second straight minor premiership.

But the club's two biggest names are still missing, with Luai and Cleary working together with the rehabilitation group.

Luai is now expected to come back against Brisbane next Saturday, but Cleary's absence is expected to push into at least a fourth week with Penrith prepared to take a cautious approach with his shoulder injury.

"I'm very hopeful Romi might be back next week," Ivan Cleary said.

"Nathan we haven't got a time frame on it. We're not going to rush him back.

"He won't play next week, potentially the week after, but again, it's too early to judge just yet.

"It's one of those things where whenever he's right we'll press the button."

Cleary's cartilage in his right shoulder shapes as the most crucial bit of tissue in the NRL's title race.

At the time it was torn in Origin II there were serious concerns on whether he would play again this year, with the Panthers putting off surgery in the hope he can play through pain.

But the Panthers are confident his strength and range of movement has improved, as well as more tolerance in rehab with light ball work.

The club has also taken heart from Parramatta hooker Reed Mahoney's drama-free return from a similar injury on Friday night, after five weeks out.

"The best feedback is from him and he's pretty happy, the physios are happy," Ivan said.

"But at the end of the day we're not going to really know until he gets back out there.

"It was probably good to see Reed Mahoney come through last night, similar injuries."

The Panthers coach is happy though to put his faith in Tyrone May and Matt Burton in the halves, in the star pairing's absence.

However, he has urged them not to overplay their hand and believes they shouldn't be judged on their 0-2 record together this year when Penrith were largely without their Origin stars.

The Warriors will welcome Tohu Harris and Chad Townsend back from injury on Sunday.

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