The headline of this opinion piece is going to draw some attention. After all we are talking about a Premiership winning number six here and a player who was once the topic of an interstate rivalry for his services.
That said, noted and duly ignored, no player in the NRL saw his stock rise in 2018 more than the newly minted Kangaroos number six, Luke Keary.
Newcastle fans will rush to sing their superstar number one’s praises, absolutely correctly, but Keary’s last month-or-so has been downright incredible.
Keary virtually lead his side around the park on Grand Final day without a halves partner as Cooper Cronk was reduced to an on-field coach.
Keary did nearly all of the running and early on was solely responsible to ball play and kicking.
Considering he was marking the game’s premier number six in Cameron Munster, that was no easy task.
Throw in the Storm monster pack and a brilliant coach who knew to instruct plenty of traffic at the Roosters pivot, and Keary’s efforts on Grand Final day become the stuff of legend.
He was handed the Clive Churchill medal in one of the easiest decisions you will ever seen made, and was this week handed a Kangaroo jersey his form so richly deserved.
Although originally overlooked for the man he bested on the last Saturday in September in Munster, Keary’s late call up capped off one of the best seasons we have seen from a player looking to establish himself.
After leaving the Bunnies in farcical circumstances, Keary signed for their most bitter of rivals and would represent the tri-colours for possibly the remainder of his career.
Keary’s talents in 2017 were such that the club allowed Mitchell Pearce, multiple time Origin representative and Premiership winner in his own right, to walk away rather than risk losing their new prized asset.
The Roosters’ number six was the difference against the Sharks, played beautifully against Souths, and was by far and away the standout on the biggest day of the rugby league calendar.
There can be little doubt that he is now the front runner for the 2019 number six jersey for the Blues. If he can stay fit and reclaim his 2018 form, it’s just a question of which Panthers half makes way to accommodate Keary.
Truthfully I believe Keary may already have two or three sky blue jumpers on his resume had he not originally stated he wanted to play for Queensland when his name was brought up.
Having now declared for New South Wales, there is no stopping the freakish 26-year-old.
If it sounds like I’m a big fan of Keary, that’s because I am. Unashamedly.
He was walked out of a club he help deliver the ultimate glory, a Premiership, in ridiculous and very public circumstances.
He didn’t throw in the towel, or reach for the toys with intent to throw them out of the cot.
He got on with the job, secured a move to the Roosters and then played the game of his life on the biggest occasion of the 2018 season.
He now has a shiny medal with his name on it, a second premiership ring, and a green and gold jumper.
Keary also gave Trent Robinson yet another reason to smile for as well as Pearce played since his move to the Hunter, his decision to keep Keary and partner him with Cronk was proven to be 100% correct.
There was little more the pivot could do to reward his coach for his faith.
If anyone ever doubted the metal within the now two-time Premiership winner, that doubt was folded, torn to shreds then lit on fire by his performance on the final day of the season.
What an effort! What a season! What a player!
Ponga was monsterous in 2018. Ramien and Issako were huge.
Yet no player in 2018 saw their stock rise quite as much as the new Kangaroo’s number six Luke Keary.