Injury-free Luki is humming to a fresh Cowboy tune
Back-to-back wins for North Queensland mark a turning point in the Cowboys' NRL season, sitting two points out of the top eight after a sluggish start to the year.
But it's the re-emergence of power, speed and athleticism on their right edge that has the Cowboys feeling back in the saddle.
Towering second-rower Heilum Luki had his best game for 12 months against St George Illawarra on Saturday after consecutive bouts of injury.
The 22-year-old tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the corresponding home fixture against the Dragons in Round 14 last year, before a hamstring complaint sidelined him for four weeks after his return to the top flight.
With regular starter Jeremiah Nanai serving a four-week suspension, Luki was back with a bang against the Sydney Roosters in Magic Round, shoring up their right edge and registering a try-saving tackle.
He then bagged a career-first double against the Red V at home a week later.
Luki finished Saturday's fixture with six tackle breaks, 52 post-contact metres, and just shy of 200 total running metres in 60 minutes.
Some of those breaks gassed his own outside backs for pace, and Luki joked it would be a tight 100-yard dash between himself and teammates Peta Hiku and Kyle Feldt.
But the 196cm forward is just happy to have consistency back, and believes his inclusion has driven up certainty on the right edge.
"I'd like to think I've given them a bit of confidence with my leg speed and quick play-the-balls," Luki told AAP.
"I really took it upon myself to focus on that, and hopefully that will improve next week.
"That's something that comes with playing more games, and it'll probably be a few more before I get my game fitness back."
Luki's pre-injury form in 2022 had him tipped as a bolter for Queensland's State of Origin side.
Coach Todd Payten now has a fresh dilemma, with Nanai returning in two rounds but Luki making the case to keep the jersey as his own, with the Cowboys winning three of the five games he has played.
Five-eighth Tom Dearden is happy to see Luki striking fear into opposing teams again.
"He's a weapon, Heilum," Dearden said.
"He's a great asset, a big body, runs hard and he's really good defensively as well.
"Heilum has just really found what works for him, which is running hard at little halves on the edge, and he creates a lot of momentum and plenty of quick play-the-balls for us to play off the back of."