Luke: Trainers can stay away
It will be a brave trainer who dares to tell Issac Luke it's time for a rest in this Sunday's trial match between the Warriors and Titans.
In what will be his first hit-out of the year, Luke has made it clear he wants big minutes on the park in Palmerston North and won't be heading to the bench without a fight.
"I'm going to tell the trainers to go away if they come to get me," Luke declared this week.
"But I want to be effective too, so obviously if I am not then 'Mooks' (coach Stephen Kearney) will send the message out and bring me off."
Despite entering his 11th season in the NRL Telstra Premiership, Luke, who turns 30 in May, said he had a genuine desire to be an 80-minute hooker this season.
It comes after a 2016 campaign which saw the 208-game veteran battle through niggling calf and knee injuries, as well as a sluggish start to the season caused by off-season weight gain.
"Most definitely [I want to play 80 minutes this year], but I have got great hookers behind me biting at my heels and that is what's making this a competitive group," he said.
"I feel better [than last year], it was everything you know, it wasn’t just the calf, it was my weight, the knees trying to hold up the fat weight.
"Everything has come good… [I've lost] about four kilos, that's where I was before I came [to the Warriors], I am pretty happy and the staff are happy too.
"Everything is going well so far, obviously I have to try and perform on the field, that's where it counts."
Coach Stephen Kearney said he expected to leave his key players on the park for the majority of the match against the Gold Coast in preparation for the Round 1, and welcomed the return of both Luke and former captain Simon Mannering to the line-up this weekend.
"We have Round 1 in our sights and focus, so for me it will be pretty much close to the game with interchanges and playing times," Kearney said.
"With Simon you just know that regardless of situation he will deliver.
"Issac had a slight calf strain so he was rested last week. It will be good to get a few experienced guys out there.
"There were some parts of the game last week (a 30-18 loss to the Storm) that looked like the way we have trained all pre-season, which was pleasing, but it's about improving that again."