Warriors hooker Issac Luke.

Luke thrilled Maori getting first Indigenous Round recognition

Recognising Maori culture has been incorporated into the NRL Indigenous Round for the first time and Warriors hooker Issac Luke will be using the chance to reinforce the importance of heritage to his children.

During Saturday's clash between the Warriors and Roosters, the NRL will officially recognise Maori as part of the round, dedicated to Australia's indigenous people.

Maori will be on full display through a special jersey depicting New Zealand heritage, a pre-game performance from a cultural group and the Roosters will be welcomed onto the ground with a karanga (welcome chant).

Recognition during Indigenous Round has been something several Warriors players have been calling on the NRL to introduce for the past few years.

"This is a very special round and the NRL recognising Maori is something guys like Blairy (Adam Blair) has been behind for a while," said Luke, who has been ruled out of the match with a shoulder injury.

"It's an awesome thing from the NRL to be able to recognise us as our people and we at the Warriors don't only represent Maori, it's for the Polynesian boys too. This is their round as well."

Sam Lisone, Agnatius Paasi and James Bell at Warriors training.
Sam Lisone, Agnatius Paasi and James Bell at Warriors training. ©www.photosport.co.nz

The Warriors will run out onto Mt Smart Stadium in a jersey that is somewhat of a cultural work of art.

The front of the jersey design is dominated by a toa (warrior), armed with a patu (weapon), as well as a tewhatewha (a long-handled weapon shaped like an axe).

Ferns in the design represent New Zealand while the mist is spirit, a connector to New Zealand's ancestors and to the earth.

On the back, the jersey features an image of Rangitoto Island, connecting it with Auckland.

Luke said a major reason he wanted to return New Zealand three years ago after a lengthy stint with South Sydney was so his children could learn and be around Maori culture.

He even helped organise weekly Maori language lessons for some members of the squad.

Warriors coach Stephen Kearney said his players understood the importance of the day and the round.

"I think it's a really significant acknowledgment from the NRL," he said.

"The Indigenous Round has been a wonderful addition to the NRL draw and to have the New Zealand culture recognised this year I think is great for the game."

Before kick-off there will be an exchange of cultural gifts between representatives from both teams.