The first time I ever saw Isaac Lucas play rugby, I saw a young man with many talents.
Playing against kid’s years older, his natural vision, gifted footwork and tenacity in defence were already on display.
He was 12.
Now a 19-year-old Lucas travels in business class for the first time, eats ramen noodles for the first time and will now start in his preferred position of five-eight for the first time this Saturday against the Sunwolves.
Starting a Super Rugby game is a daunting prospect for any rookie, let alone the pivotal No. 10 jersey, yet Lucas has an air of calmness that puts you at ease.
A player who has always been earmarked for higher honours, it’s fair to say that Isaac was born to play professional rugby.
Rugby royalty don’t come much greater than the Lucas’, a family of 4 boys who have all made a name for themselves as professionals in our code.
Eldest son Ben has had a long and illustrious career and was part of the championship winning 2011 Reds side, Matt plies his trade as a crafty halfback for the Brumbies while Tom is an established member of the Australian 7’s side.
Now it’s Isaac’s turn.
Having starred for Australian rugby nursery St. Joseph’s College Gregory Terrace at school, Lucas went on to represent the Australian Schoolboys in year 12.
His season was epitomised by his capacity to provide space for others with his deft passing game as well as possessing the ability to create something out of nothing.
Most school leavers would be happy to play under-19’s, but boyhood club Sunnybank recognised his undeniable talent and he became a regular fixture for the side in Premier Grade footy.
Being just 17 at the time and still learning the ins and outs of how to be a playmaker at that level, he spent the last two years at 12, waiting, wishing and wanting the opportunity to return to his natural position.
This was to be expected, after all, decision makers take time to develop and there are very few who can manage such great responsibilities at a young age.
An Australian under-20’s World Championship, NRC campaign with Brisbane City and a full pre-season later, Lucas now understands how to manage a more in-depth game, not just thinking about the upcoming play but the following 5-6 which precede it.
It was a pleasant surprise to see him in all the trials for the Reds, with most judges expecting him to be a squad-filler looking towards an opportunity in 2020.
Yet his silky passing skills and classy footwork forced Brad Thorn’s hand as he was handed a debut off the bench in Dunedin and didn’t look out of place.
Thrown in the deep end, last week posed a giant test as went face-to-face with an all-star Waratahs backline including Israel Folau, Kurtley Beale and Karmichael Hunt.
True to his nature, Lucas wasn’t flustered.
He proved a reliable defender and ever-present threat with ball in hand.
This weekend is a further step up and the challenge is to help the Reds move the point of attack away from a simple catch and carry game plan.
The Reds forwards cannot be questioned on their work ethic, however their tight attack spacings have meant that defences have not been challenged laterally, and if Lucas can move the ball away from these narrow corridors, then the space will be exposed for the likes of Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Samu Kerevi and Sefa Naivalu.
The Reds also need a more polished kicking game.
Too often aimless kicks have been produced in the hope of a territory-based game like a world class halves combination.
We all know the Reds aren’t going to produce this and I think Lucas can also help here.
Despite his kicking game being his weakest asset, he knows the limitation of his game and won’t try and overplay his hand in this department. Hamish Stewart is the chief kicker and simplifying their kicking game could just be the tonic to fix up their strategy.
Nevertheless, it’s exciting to see Lucas be handed the reigns.
Last week his carry looked ominous and if he can take the ball to the line who knows what will happen.
Are we seeing the finished product? No.
Can he star at Super Rugby level? Hell yes.
Watch – Isaac Lucas ahead of Sunwolves clash:
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