With Issac Luke's immediate playing future finally confirmed, rising New Zealand Warrior Nathaniel Roache said he couldn't be happier that his mentor – and biggest positional rival – is remaining in Auckland for 2019.
The Warriors last week stepped in to kill off rumoured interest in Luke from the Parramatta Eels by offering the 31-year-old an upgraded one-year deal for 2019, which removed a clause allowing him to potentially leave if a more lucrative offer came along.
Despite his own NRL Telstra Premiership ambitions likely to have benefitted significantly from a Luke departure, Roache wasted no time in reaching out to the former Kiwi international to encourage him to remain at Mount Smart Stadium.
"When I heard the rumours [he might be leaving], I went and talked to him and said, 'all us hookers still have so much to learn off you'," Roache told NRL.com.
"I was just making sure he was OK with everything. Me and him are very close off the field, not just as footy players.
"We know we are all playing for the same position, but at the end of the day you make good friends and he has always been there for me through my injuries.
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"A lot of us at the club aren't really natural hookers, and he's been a hooker for so long, it's really valuable what we can learn off him.
"I'm just happy he is there so I can learn off him and hopefully get some games with him, whatever the rotation is.
"He had a good year last year and I am sure he is going to back it up this year."
A string of serious injuries have stalled Roache's promising career over the past two years, missing all of 2018 after having back surgery and managing just nine games in a 2017 campaign which ended in him suffering a torn Achilles.
But the 22-year-old started at hooker in both of the Warriors' pre-season trials and said he experienced no hangover from the long layoff.
"It's been a real long time, and it was good to get two games under my belt. Getting the minutes in was all the focus really was," Roache said.
"I've pulled up fine, a few bumps and bruises like you do expect, but the body is fine. I think I have shown with past injuries that I can come back a bit stronger, and these injuries don't really faze me mentally or physically.
"Aggression was something that I tried to work on [in the trials], not only on attack but defence as well. I didn't want to look like I was soft and like I had been out of the game for too long."
In addition to Roache and Luke, the Warriors have specialist hooker Karl Lawton in their top 30 squad for this season, along with Dally M Interchange Player of the Year Jazz Tevaga, who can play dummy-half.