Vodafone Warriors hooker Issac Luke has been involved in any number of big occasions during his extended playing career. Tonight’s 24th-round NRL encounter is one of them.
First and foremost, it’s a belated emotional first for him, going ‘home’ to ANZ Stadium to play against his long-time South Sydney side for the first time.
It’s the only meeting between the two clubs this season while they also clashed just once last year (in the 23rd round in Auckland when Luke was side-lined with a knee injury).
It adds special personal meaning to tonight’s contest for Luke but this match has much more hanging on it than that alone for the 228-game NRL veteran.
For the second week running, he was named on the interchange bench with head coach Stephen Kearney preferring the impressive 21-year-old Nathaniel Roache as his starting option.
The plan came unstuck in last Sunday’s encounter with Canberra when Roache had to move out into the backline after just 14 minutes when Solomone Kata was injured. It meant Luke was on the field much earlier than scheduled.
There was a devastating setback for the team on Wednesday when Roache went down with a leg injury at training, ruling him out of the trip to Sydney.
It opened the way for Luke to possibly return to the starting hooker’s role against his former club tonight, although Jazz Tevaga is also in the mix.
Whether he starts or is injected from the bench, Luke will be in focus even more as he looks to get his forwards rolling and works in with halves Kieran Foran and Ata Hingano.