It's been a busy winter for me, both on and off the field. For starters I got married back home in Australia and although it was pretty cold (even by British standards), the big day was fantastic.
There was time for a honeymoon to the Great Barrier Reef before returning to England in mid-November for pre-season training, meaning I 'enjoyed' the snow that blanketed the country during the winter.
As an Aussie I enjoy the snow; it's still a novelty to me for the first day or so. After that it does lose its appeal quickly, though it's still tough to believe that a 'bit' of white stuff on the grounf can bring an entire country to a standstill!
Thankfully the day job didn't get affected too badly, as Quins put contingency plans in place to hold indoor sessions during bad weather.
Few outside of the club may have known about Rob before he was appointed, but he's been brilliant with the players from day one
This winter was our first pre-season under new head coach Rob Powell, who has taken over as head coach following the departure of Brian McDermott to Leeds.
Few outside of the club may have known about Rob before he was appointed, but he's been brilliant with the players from day one. He was clear on what we had to do from the outset, narrowing our focus a little bit when in the past we've been a bit loose, perhaps concentrating on too many things.
Mac has been around the game for a long time and has his own theories on how the game should be played, and obbviously a new man has his own ideas.
Rob has changed a few areas of our game. For starters, he's given people more responsibility than in the past and made us more specific, particularly in defence.
It's fair to say Quins have never in my time at the club been known as a strong team defensively, but it's something we've worked on during the winter months.
Before the start of the season we were tipped as one of the sides to struggle in Super League, and you couldn't blame anyone for thinking that way. Last year we didn't perform well and then there wasn't a massive recruitment drive during the off-season.
However, the players we've bought in from Australia have added a lot to the squad; they've come in and immediately blended in with the rest, both on and off the pitch.
Quins have also used the loan system, bolstering our ranks even further. The biggest difference from this time last year, though, is that we have a fully fit squad at the start of a campaign. It shouldn't come as a surprise to see a team going well when it has all of their players available for selection.
We started the campaign confident that we could do something this year and already we have given an indication of what we are capable of.
Against Leeds at Headingley we scored plenty of points and then even though we lost against Huddersfield last time out in front of the Sky Sports cameras, we were still in it at the death. In previous years I think we would have rolled over and got a few more points put on us.
Back at this stage in 2010 we already had three players ruled out for at least three months (including myself) and throughout the season we had five or six out for an extended period of time.
Now, in contrast, there is competition for places in the first team. It also means the things we've worked on during the off-season can be born out on the field of play.
As for me, full-back appears now to be my permanent home. Last year I enjoyed playing in the position but I was somewhat forced there due to an injury to Ben Jones-Bishop (who is now showing everyone how good he is back at Leeds).
Having now become fully accustomed in the role now, I'm starting to wish I'd played there more in my career!
I enjoyed this off-season more than any other before because it involved learning about a new position, about what to do in situations, about a full-back's duties in defence, about returning the ball from deep. Then there's also developing knowledge on where and when to chime into the attacking line.
So far, life at full-back has been excellent, as too has Quins' start to the season - long may the good times continue in 2011!
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Giovanni O'brien says...
Luke is a brilliant part of the team and is an 'ornery' Londoner!
Posted 18:26 11th March 2011
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