Issac Luke was on the right side of the 32 – 20 outcome of the Round 1 game against the South Sydney Rabbitohs in the Warriors’ opener of the 2018 Telstra NRL Premiership competition. He played 190 game for the Bunnies before leaving to return to his native land following the 2015 season.
Luke may have derived some motivation from being left off the Kiwis’ World Cup squad, but whatever the reason, he looked to be in trim form and fast of foot as the hooker made 113 metres and five tackle busts.
The Warriors host the Gold Coast Titans at Mount Smart on Friday and they are overwhelming favourites to win, giving them the rare opportunity of starting the season with two consecutive wins, something they have not managed to do since 2009 and just the third time in the history of the club.
Luke played 67 minutes in the game with the Rabbits, going out with a head knock.
Warriors’ Coach Stephen Kearney is cautiously optimistic about the 30-year-old Luke this season, telling reporters, “It’s about turning up this week and putting in another performance. But I was pleased for him and pleased with his performance on the weekend.”
Luke is nurturing a hamstring injury he sustained last month, saying, “I don’t see Issac being able to go a full 80 at the minute. We’ll see how that goes but at this stage, to get the most effectiveness out of him he will probably need to have a spell at some stage.”
The expectation s of Luke by the Warriors’ club and supporters were high when he came over in 2017, but as of yet, those expectations have not been met in a place where rugby players are held to a high standard.
In Kearney’s view, “With a couple of years of under-performing in Issac’s eyes and in the club’s eyes… it came together where he missed the World Cup squad. And I think sometimes you’ve got to hit rock bottom to get yourself out of it.”