Luke still an 80-minute man
Despite the Warriors naming two hookers for their opening round clash with the Tigers this weekend, starting No.9 Issac Luke remains staunch in the belief that he is an 80-minute player.
With the reduction of the interchange from 10 to eight, several clubs have opted to go with just one recognised dummy-half in their 17 for Round 1.
Throughout his nine-year career Luke has regularly played full matches – doing so in 15 of his 20 games last year – but that didn't deter coach Andrew McFadden from including rookie Nathaniel Roache on the interchange as cover for the former Rabbitoh.
"I think I can play 80 this year, but it's something I want to continue to work on and make sure I meet all the right requirements for," Luke told NRL.com.
"But it's good to keep me on my toes, especially with Nate Roache right behind me, it's going to be great for him and also for me as well.
"I don't really have an idea of how long I will play, I think I have just got to go flat out until they call me to come off.
"I have made some little effort adjustments to my game for this year, mostly around making sure I push up with my fullback. We have got people who love to offload so I just have to make sure I am there if they need me."
Speaking to media mid-week McFadden remained coy on the hooking situation, suggesting Luke will still play the full match if he is up to it.
"It's just an indication that we want plenty of energy in the middle," McFadden said of the selection.
"Certainly I think Issac will play 80 minutes, but he's only had limited footy here so we just want to make sure we give him the best opportunity to play his best footy.
"I want him thinking about running and adding impact, not just trying to get through the 80 minutes.
"We have got a fair bit of versatility there – I've got Ben Henry who is starting who can cover multiple positions and Nate Roache can too, he's played outside backs and halves before as well.
"Nate he has played multiple positions in lower grades. His primary role is there at hooker, but having versatility on your bench is pretty critical, especially with the head (knock) rule and obviously the fewer interchanges."
At 19 Roache remains eligible to play Holden Cup this year, but has earned his shot in the Telstra Premiership after some strong form through the trials which included a two-try showing at the NRL Auckland Nines in February.
Roache hails from Mt Albert Grammar School in central Auckland, where Sonny Bill Williams is counted among their illustrious sporting alumni.
According to Luke there is plenty to like about the youngster, who last year averaged 89 metres and 29.6 tackles across 13 games for the Junior Warriors.
"He is a great, great talent. He has been able to work on some good aspects of his game lately too," Luke said.
"He is super fast and loves to get his body in front, so now it's just about making sure I connect with him and show him what I can.
"The expectation that we buy into is just the one between us. We know what we are trying to achieve and we just need to do our job."
The other main hooking contender at the Warriors, Kiwi international Thomas Leuluai, continues to recover from an ACL injury sustained last year and is targeting a Round 5 return.