During his short career to date Luke Metcalf has managed to surround himself with some of the top playmakers the NRL has seen this decade, and he's made sure to soak up every bit of knowledge he could from them along the way.
From being a kid at Manly when current Queensland star Daly Cherry-Evans and former NSW Blue Trent Hodkinson were calling the shots, to his time at the Sharks in which his mentors included Shaun Johnson, Chad Townsend, Matt Moylan and reigning Dally M Medal winner Nicho Hynes, the 23-year-old half has had some esteemed teachers.
“I have been pretty blessed with having some good guys to learn off,” Metcalf said.
“Learning from Nicho (Hynes) and Moyza (Moylan) – the year Nicho had winning the Dally M, it was pretty good to learn off him – and Moyza the same, he has been around some good players.
“The way [Nicho] counts numbers and picks the right side of the ball more often than not, he gets his hands on the ball a lot, you saw him play like a six but he plays like a seven at the same time.
"I really like the way he just floated around and didn’t pigeon-hole himself to one role.
Some of the stuff I have learned from them boys is pretty invaluable.Luke Metcalf
“To come back here and still have Shauny [Johnson] and to learn off him, and also be able to talk to him about footy and bounce ideas off each other, it’s pretty cool.”
At the Warriors this year, in addition to Johnson, Metcalf has a bunch of other people to lean on for advice when it comes to playing in the halves.
Season shapers: Warriors
His head coach Andrew Webster is coming off a stint at Penrith working with incumbent Origin halves Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai, club great Stacey Jones is one of the assistants and former Kiwi international half Te Maire Martin is also on the roster.
It has been a long wait to touch down in Auckland for the Coffs Harbour-born player, who signed his two-year deal with the Warriors way back in November of 2021.
The Warriors tried in vain to negotiate an early release so Metcalf could join them for the 2022 season, but despite almost certainly missing out on playing NRL games as a result of Cronulla’s decision to hold onto him (he played just once for the Sharks in 2022), he has no regrets about the way things played out.
“Obviously you want to be playing first grade… but I still just had to find the positives, I was around a really good crew and playing NSW Cup where we were coming first for pretty much the whole year,” he said.
“In hindsight it was good to stay there and learn from Nicho and Moyza and Fitzy (coach Craig Fitzgibbon), people like that, in the long run it’ll probably do me good.”
Nobody is catching Metcalf
While his season appears likely to start in reserve grade, with Johnson and Martin tracking as Webster’s likely preferred halves combination for Round 1, Metcalf is loving the competition for spots at Mt Smart Stadium.
“You can’t just have one or two [contending halves], you’ve got to have at least four. The more the merrier, I think," he said.
Since making his NRL debut in 2021, Metcalf has racked up seven first-grade games, scoring two tries.
This season he also shapes as a strong candidate for the No.1 jersey should injury hit Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad at any stage, and through the pre-season he has spent time training at fullback.