Luke facing status challenge at Souths - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Luke facing status challenge at Souths

By Ben Horne 17/03/2010 02:40:00 PM Comments (0)

Souths hooker Issac Luke is facing a big challenge this season to maintain his status as one of the NRL's most dynamic impact players.

Last season under coach Jason Taylor, Luke averaged just 56 minutes a game - with the Warriors' Ian Henderson and Cronulla veteran Corey Hughes the only other established No.9s to average less time.

Statistically he's one of the top five hookers in rugby league and he believed he deserved more game time.

John Lang granted the New Zealand rake his wish and had him out on the field for the full 80 minutes against the Roosters in round one.

But playing out the whole match is a difficult conundrum for Luke to face.

In theory you don't want such a damaging player off the field at all, but Taylor's reasoning was Luke wouldn't have to hold anything back during his allocated stints.

Now Souths have their most dangerous attacking man out in the middle for the duration, but Luke must learn to pace himself effectively so the Rabbitohs are still getting the best out of him.

Increased quantity is no good unless he's still able to produce his top quality.

"It's something I wanted but it does change my game a bit," admitted Luke.

"I've got to try and preserve energy for the right times and I guess I don't run as much as I used to.

"I'm pulling up a lot sorer than I usually do ... I think I've just got to get fitter.

"If I want these minutes then I have to play like I really want them, and I've got to refine how I used to play a bit, try and reserve energy and go out and give 100 per cent every time I take the field."

Luke last year finished inside the top five for most of the statistics relevant to the game's top hookers including tries, offloads, line-breaks, line-break assists and metres - however, this year the challenge is to maintain that record while playing the long minutes of Cameron Smith, Robbie Farah, Michael Ennis, Isaac De Gois and Nathan Friend.

After suspension cruelly robbed him of playing in last year's May Test, Luke is keen to be selected for the Kiwis, however not before securing his increased minutes for the Rabbitohs.

It starts this Friday night against consistent 80-minute hooker Friend, from the Gold Coast Titans.

"I don't know, we'll find out (how effective I can be playing 80 minutes) during the season," Luke said.

"Beau Falloon is keeping me on my toes, he's my backup hooker, and he played outstanding in the Charity Shield.

"I don't think I'll get 80 for New Zealand, maybe more like 20! I still have to make the team," added Luke.

"I have to try and make this team (Souths) week in and week out and show consistency throughout the year up to when we play Anzac (May Test) and Four Nations at the end of the year."

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