Issac Luke

Back in contention ... Issac Luke. Photo: Getty Images

SOUTH SYDNEY coach Michael Maguire says bad boy hooker Issac Luke will be involved in Friday's clash with Newcastle.

Luke was axed for last Sunday's win over Parramatta because of off-field issues and concern from Maguire about his recent form, but was included in a 21-man squad for the trip to Hunter Stadium.

The New Zealand international was in scintillating form for the first half of the season before being slugged with a three-game ban for a dangerous tackle on Roosters centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall last month.

However, Maguire has been delighted with the strong displays of Nathan Peats in the No.9 jersey in his absence.

Maguire had no hesitation sending Luke back to the NSW Cup last week after he broke a club curfew and was involved in a training-ground altercation with Scott Geddes.

Although Luke was listed as No.20 in the squad announced on Tuesday, Maguire said the 25-year-old would play against the Knights. ''Issac is in the squad and he will be in the 17,'' he said yesterday. ''At the moment it's all about performances. Issac has trained extremely well in this period and I am delighted to have him back in the team.''

Although Maguire is happy to have Luke back in the fold he said the combative rake knew he had work to do if he was to displace Peats in the starting line-up.

''I have been impressed with Issac all year,'' Maguire said.

''We have various things that go on and Issac knows exactly what he has to do to be part of the team. We are very focused on performance and Issac knows that and is very excited about being back in the side.

''But 'Peatsy' has been doing an outstanding job for us and I am very lucky to have them both. The way he is going, he's putting a lot of pressure on myself [not] to leave him out.''

Meanwhile, resting players won't be considered by North Queensland even if their finals fate is decided before Sunday's clash with Cronulla at Toyota Stadium, Cowboys fullback Matt Bowen says.

North Queensland can finish as high as third after the regular season finale but if South Sydney (Friday) and Manly (Saturday) win, the Cowboys will run out the next day against the Sharks knowing they are locked into fifth.

Giving players a rest would be tempting for Cowboys coach Neil Henry, who faces a welcome selection headache after naming a 20-strong squad for the Sharks game, including hooker James Segeyaro, who is back from a 12-week ankle injury. But North Queensland wouldn't consider that this weekend, Bowen said.

''I don't think so. No one has spoken about anything like that. We are all willing to play this weekend,'' he said yesterday.

''No one would be keen for a rest before the finals. It's always good to keep the same team on the paddock. You don't want to be chopping and changing in key positions.''

Bowen said the Cowboys would not be taking anything for granted before their second straight finals campaign and would adopt a ''win at all costs'' attitude against sixth-placed Cronulla even if already guaranteed fifth spot.

AAP