Sydney's home for now says loyal Luke

CHRIS BARCLAY
Last updated 08:36 08/06/2014
STAYING PUT: Isaac Luke has re-signed with SOuth Syndey through until 2017, but has not ruled out returning to NZ to finish his NRL career with the Warriors.
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STAYING PUT: Isaac Luke has re-signed with SOuth Syndey through until 2017, but has not ruled out returning to NZ to finish his NRL career with the Warriors.

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There is always a clarity about his option taking at dummy half - but when the possibility of eventually moving to the Warriors is raised, Issac Luke looks unusually ponderous.

Luke has just left South Sydney's dressing room at ANZ Stadium after the Rabbitohs beat St George Illawarra last Monday. He has a bag of ice you'd find in a chilly bin strapped on his left shoulder, he guides his son Adaquix with his right arm.

The 27-year-old devout Kiwi from Hawera made his NRL comeback against the Dragons having endured a rare lay-off due to injury.

One of the NRL's most effective ball runners, Luke is also one of the competition's most durable players - a two month lay-off was an aberration considering he has racked up 153 games since his debut in 2007, and featured in all 26 matches last season as the Rabbitohs made the preliminary final.

During his rehabilitation from surgery, Luke extended his contract at the Rabbitohs to the end of 2017 despite interest from Parramatta and the Warriors, and the potential for returning home clearly nags at him.

"I thought about it . . . it's a bit . . ." stumbles Luke, as he stares into the distance.

"I'd love to go home, but this is my home at the moment."

Luke will be a touch over 30 when his deal at Redfern expires, time enough to play out his career in Auckland, though for now helping provide South Sydney's first premiership since 1971.

"I want to be part of their history and write my name on that board with the legends here and obviously leave a legacy as well," he said, of his unfinished business.

Luke's loyalty to one of New South Wales' foundation clubs is also motivated by his working relationship with head coach Michael Maguire.

"Madge [Maguire] has really brought out the best in me," said Luke, who developed an unsavoury reputation during 2011 - a tempestuous year highlighted by his attempt to break the leg of cousin - and adopted England international - Rangi Chase during the Four Nations.

Maguire returned to Australia from Wigan for the 2012 season and since then Luke has undeniably mellowed.

"Everyone goes through rough patches, I went through that for a few years. That's something I learned from. Everything I do affects everyone around me ."

Luke is no longer the archetypal angry young man, a view validated by Maguire as the Rabbitohs prepared for last night's round 13 clash with the Warriors in Perth.

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"He's turned himself into a real leader of us in the way he goes about what he does off the field and on the field. He's a big part of our team," said Maguire, who has still opted to use Apisai Koroisau to share the hooking role.

Luke would usually bristle at playing less than the full 80 but was content to job share with the Fijian international, knowing his understudy is off to Penrith next season.

"It's hard to come off, but it's a privilege to come off for Api. He's been playing great in my shoes, and my jersey," he said.

He had the same opinion of Siliva Havili, who debuted at hooker in last month's Anzac test after utility Ben Henry also earned his first cap at dummy half.

Luke and injured second rower Frank Pritchard handed out the test jumpers and also attended team functions; he was also in the sheds post- match.

"It was a proud moment for myself, I was very humbled by it," said Luke, who kept the advice to his understudies to a minimum.

"For them to learn they sort of have to do it themselves. I told Siliva he was outstanding and I told Ben Henry the same.

"All they had to do was make their tackles and get to dummy half, and that's what they did."

Of course Luke is looking forward to doing that - and more - in this year's Four Nations.

"I'm just trying to rack them [games] up now. I have to try and get to a form that Mooks [Stephen Kearney] is happy with and hopefully he'll give me a go at the end of the year," he said, surely knowing his 30th test will only be delayed by injury.

- Sunday News

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