Kahu overcomes injuries to become key part of Kiwis set-up
IN MANY ways, Brisbane fullback Jordan Kahu is lucky to be playing league.
He has endured an injury run that would have flattened many other players, but is now thriving at the highest level of the sport, a testament to his character and courage.
Kahu was one of the best on field for the Kiwis in their 17-16 win over England on Sunday, a close contender for the man-of-the-match award picked up by Shaun Johnson.
He was superb at the back, defusing several massive bombs and making some important last-line tackles, especially in the first half. The 25-year-old also set up the Kiwis' first try and kicked some pressure goals in the tight match.
It was impressive stuff, especially for a player that only came into the international environment a year ago, and has battled serious physical and mental demons throughout his career.
A promising junior at Keebra Park High School (Benji Marshall's alma mater) on the Gold Coast, his early development at the Broncos was disrupted by a knee reconstruction in 2011. He returned, before rupturing his knee again, necessitating another reconstruction in 2012.
Kahu finally made his NRL debut in 2013, before suffering another serious knee injury early in the following season. He has also broken his thumb twice, and missed a chunk of this season with two pectoral injuries.
"Injuries are part of the sport and some get more than others,” Kahu said. "But I have managed to come back from them and I'm loving my footy at the moment.”
Kahu has taken great strides over the past 18 months. He was a big part of the Broncos' run to the grand final last year (scoring nine tries in 22 matches) and grabbed 15 tries in 20 games this season. Kahu also played every match on the Kiwis' tour of England last year and has become a crucial cog in the New Zealand machine.
On the current trip Kahu has grabbed the opportunity to be goal kicker, after a meeting with Issac Luke and Shaun Johnson.
"I put my hand up to do the kicking,” Kahu said. "The three of us spoke about it and they were happy for me to do it. Issac is in the middle and it's pretty intense and Shaun has a lot of responsibilities already. It's about taking some pressure off those two.”
For that reason Kahu was on edge during the last 20 minutes of Sunday's match, after hitting the post with his conversion attempt of Jordan Rapana's second try.
"I was pretty angry for missing that kick,” Kahu said. "I didn't want the result to come back to that. The last 15 minutes were a bit scary for that reason.”
But the Kiwis eventually prevailed in what Kahu describes as one of the most physical matches he has played in.
"The forwards really stood up and everyone did their job,” he said. "It was a very important result and we'll take a lot of confidence into (Sunday morning's game against the Kangaroos) because of that.”