In the aftermath of the grand final Dunamis Lui was officially confirmed as part of the Queensland State of Origin squad. Now he’s starting in the first game. It’s a fitting reward for a career of stepping up.
For a guy that probably wasn’t in most Canberra fans first-choice 17s before the season, the fact that Lui was named in the Origin squad is a stunning achievement. The unique circumstances of 2020 have certainly played a part. They’ve extended the opportunities in terms the size of the squad, as well as removing potential competition through injuries. But Lui has stepped into every gap available, and performed.
Lui has come a long way as a Raider. When he joined the club in 2017 it didn’t seem consequential to me. Indeed, after Paul Vaughan left at the end of 2016, the collective commentariat’s focus was more on the potential for Dave Taylor as a middle than Lui. He only played 7 games for the Raiders in 2017, averaged a career low 35 metres a game and had a solitary offload for the season. In limited opportunities.
But Lui’s nature is to keep finding a way to contribute. He made himself a consistent part of the game day 17 over 2018 and 2019 with a very specific role. I called him an old school opener, a reference to how opening batsmen were once used in cricket. Lui would come on, suffer the most energetic blows of the opposition through the opening forays of the match, wearing them down, and allowing other the easier path. Sometimes he’d only play 30 or so minutes for the whole game. What was important was that his defence was first rate, able to stop the Raiders from losing the middle early. It may not have been a starring role, but that was exactly what the coaches wanted, and Lui made sure he could provide.
Even with that role, it seemed that the emergence of Ryan Sutton, Corey Horsburgh and Emre Guler over 2019 would reduce the opportunities for Lui to take advantage of. But when Horsburgh and Guler went down alongside club stalwart Sia Soliola early this season, Lui evolved his game again to fill the hole left.
Lui became a pack leader, playing big minutes, taking important runs, and even taking over injured Josh Hodgson’s role as chief ‘stripper’. More minutes meant more carries, and his 91 metres a game became a career best. He had the third most metres in the Green Machine pack, and his consistency was astounding, exemplified by the fact that he had the third most carries of 8 plus metres by a Canberra forward (after Papalii and Tapine). Instead of the solitary offload he had in 2017, he had 11 this season. But even more importantly, his defence improved further. Despite an uptick in minutes, Lui cut his missed tackles in half in 2020, taking 52 and 51 in 2018 and 2019 to just 26 in 2020.
He did all this in the absence of more experienced, or more talented colleagues. He saw that someone had to step up, and he made sure he did it. And now he joins the Queensland squad in similar circumstances. There’s no doubt in my mind if both he and Corey Horsburgh had played full seasons it would be the red-head that would be joining Origin camp this week. But instead Lui is taking his spot. And if history is any guide, now that Wayne Bennett is giving him a shot, he won’t disappoint.
Do us a solid and like our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or share this on social media. Send us feedback (firstname.lastname@example.org – we answer all emails) or comment below if you think we are stupid. Or if we’re not