Luke back in Maguire's good books after carving up Canberra
BIDE your time and the opportunity will come. It's the story of South Sydney and their frustrating wait for a chance like this - as well as the previously banished hooker who helped get them to where they are.
Issac Luke, a Kiwi international and on his day, one of the most damaging players in the premiership, was given a start last night against Canberra, and he did not disappoint the coach who put him there.
''I thought he performed really well for us,'' Souths coach Michael Maguire said. ''I probably thought about that at the start of the week, it was in my mind to give Issac an opportunity there. He's been playing really well for us even though he's come off the bench for us the last couple of weeks.''
Under pressure … the Rabbitohs' Dave Taylor. Photo: Brendan Esposito
Of all the teams which played last week and remained in the competition, the Rabbitohs were arguably the most disappointing, dissolving against the might of the Storm in the first half. They needed a strong opening last night and they got it, largely thanks to Luke.
Maguire, aware that a sluggish start cost the Rabbitohs dearly a week earlier, would have been looking for exactly the opening Luke provided. The hooker, who has enjoyed more controversy this season than he would like, made an immediate impact, and after eight minutes, sparked the opening try of the contest. As he does so well, he fought for every inch, his legs pumping and his head bobbing. He scurried through the Canberra defence, offloaded to five-eighth John Sutton, who then sent halfback Adam Reynolds on his way for the try.
Nathan Peats is a solid player but cannot provide that spark. The fact Luke has been unable to force his way into the starting side for so long would have been motivation for him to make his opportunity count, and he did so.
Luke had been dropped following off-field ill-discipline and poor form on the field, and when he returned to the Rabbitohs' line-up, Maguire made him wait. While it might have cost the side against the Storm, Souths fans must have felt that his form last night was worth that wait.
Such was his input that Maguire left him on the field until the 70th minute, just after winger Andrew Everingham's flashy try following Reynolds's second-tackle kick. As the Rabbitohs' fans celebrated the inevitability of their win, they stood to applaud Luke.
''Obviously Peatsey didn't get a lot of time but Issac performed well and just doing things that are right for the team,'' Maguire said.
''While Issac was running out of dummy half and rolling the forwards onto the ball like he was, I thought I'd leave him out there. He was very good for us.''
Now Luke will be in a preliminary final against the Bulldogs, the club where the Rabbitohs found him. There are few certainties in rugby league but you'd have to think that, after a performance like that, he will be starting against the team where it all began.