Resilient Keary Primed For Test Debut
Pressure is a word that gets thrown around constantly among Rugby League circles as a primary influence on player performance.
Some players thrive under the limelight but others can crumble.
But Luke Keary is certainly no stranger to pressure, and his career-defining performance in the NRL Grand Final is a testament to his resilience that helped him seamlessly take the reins in the Roosters premiership triumph.
Some view his Man of the Match display as a 'coming of age' moment for the 26-year-old following another strong season, but his maturity and selfless team-first approach has been evident to others well before he claimed the Clive Churchill Medal.
Those exact character traits stood out to Bryden Lawyers NSW Blues Coach Brad Fittler and it saw the dynamic five-eighth drafted into the squad for Game II and III of the State of Origin series, and the experience will no doubt pay dividends when he makes his Test debut for Australia on Saturday.
"You [can] get put in different situations in any stage of your life and it can be any circumstance, but I guess you find out what you can and can't do when you get put in those situations," Keary said.
"It's a special feeling [because] it's the pinnacle of our game...but I don't think it's about getting here, it's about what you do when you get here.
"So we got a couple of weeks of hard work and we'll see how we feel after that."
It's that exact attitude that helped him brush aside the uncertainty surrounding Cooper Cronk's inclusion in the decider – openly stating that he "doesn't care" whether or not the chief playmaker would be fit to play.
But rest assured that approach was one that was best for the team – solely focusing on a perfect preparation rather than worry about the potential of Cronk's absence.
But asked about the specific attributes that have helped him evolve into one of the premier five-eighths in the game, Keary put it down to one key factor that now has him standing as a soon-to-be Australian representative.
"I'm not too sure, you probably have to ask the people of the game, coaches and stuff like that, but you just try to work hard at all areas [of your game]."
"Having blokes like Cooper (Cronk) coming in this year have helped me identify a couple of areas and Ijust work hard at it through the year and just tried get better."
Keary is another rare instance where he will make his debut for Australia before donning the sky-blue jumper, but nonetheless a deserved reward for a player who has won two premierships at separate clubs within the last five years.
He became the first player to win a Grand Final with the Roosters and South Sydney Rabbitohs since the great Ron Coote in 1974.
He will be bolstered by having three Roosters team-mates alongside him against Tonga, with James Tedesco and Latrell Mitchell also expected to make their debuts while Boyd Cordner will Captain the side.
And although ecstatic with his own achievements, Keary selflessly spoke of the enormous pride he felt when Cordner was named to lead the Kangaroos.
"It took a while to sink in it's a hard thing and probably won't look back on this for a few months because its all happened pretty quick which is a good thing," he said
"I'm really happy for him and proud of him. He obviously captained his state and captained us at the Roosters to the Grand Final and I think he deserves it.
"I'm really proud of him."