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Issac Luke survives 'rock bottom' to shine

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 5 days ago Angelo Risso

He was also playing for a fresh contract, with his expiring this year. © Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images He was also playing for a fresh contract, with his expiring this year. Issac Luke hit "rock bottom" after being overlooked for the Kiwis' 2017 Rugby League World Cup squad, Warriors boss Stephen Kearney says.

But the hooker has slowly begun clawing his way back to the top.

A high-profile 2016 recruit from South Sydney, the 30-year-old Luke has mostly underwhelmed in Auckland to date, struggling with form and fitness.

That culminated in his omission from the Kiwis' Cup squad, with then-coach David Kidwell preferring Thomas Leuluai and Danny Levi as rakes.

The Kiwis ultimately fell out of the tournament in the quarter-finals.

Kearney admitted the Taranaki-born Luke had underperformed throughout his Warriors tenure, but felt he was primed for a big 2018 in the No.9 jumper.

Having sat out the World Cup, Luke has a full pre-season under his belt, whipped into shape by notoriously ruthless fitness guru Alex Corvo.

He was also playing for a fresh contract, with his expiring this year.

Appearing lean, motivated and fleet-footed, Luke was one of the side's best performers in Saturday's first-up 32-20 win over ex-club Souths, making 24 tackles and more than 100 running metres from dummy half.

"Off the back of a couple years of underperforming in Issac's eyes and the club's eyes in terms of the expectation we set for him, it sort of came together where he missed the World Cup squad at the end of the year," Kearney said.

"Sometimes you've got to hit rock bottom to find yourself, to get yourself out.

"Again, it's like we're all saying - it's about turning up again this week."

Kearney said he'd continue to avoid playing Luke for the full 80 minutes, using the newly-promoted Sam Cook as a foil when Luke wearies.

Incumbent back-up rake Nate Roache is out for the season with a back issue.

"At this stage, I think to get the most effectiveness out of him, he'll probably need to have a spell at some stage," Kearney said.

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