Kearney: Warriors keen to sign Koroisau with Luke unlikely to stay

On the eve of facing Manly in Auckland, Warriors coach Stephen Kearney has confirmed his interest in signing one of their key players, hooker Api Koroisau.

With veteran rake Issac Luke off contract at the end of this season and unlikely to be retained – and uncertainty surrounding the future of Nathaniel Roache after he suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury in June – the Warriors have an obvious need at dummy-half for 2020.

Kearney confirmed on Thursday that Koroisau, who has been given permission by Manly to negotiate with other clubs, is a target.

"With Bully [Luke] not contracted to us next year, Api becomes an option," Kearney said.

"Part of us improving our playing roster [is] making sure that we're getting the right player, whether from an ability point of view, character point of view and obviously what they can contribute to the group.

"Someone who has experience like Api, of [that] calibre, is certainly an attraction.

"We are in a position where we are never going to close the door [on Luke], we have some priorities that we want to look at and once they crystallise we all assess it from there.

"We are always looking to improve our list and obviously we have got an area of our list that we think we can improve [at hooker]."

Koroisau is named to start at hooker for the Sea Eagles on Friday night after making his return from injury in last week's 30-6 win over Newcastle.

The interest in the Fijian international comes as the Warriors have been forced to name two makeshift hookers for the clash against Manly, with injuries to Roache and Karl Lawton (shoulder), coupled with the suspension of Luke, leaving them without a recognised No.9.

Usual half Adam Keighran is set to share the duties with Jazz Tevaga, who has experience at hooker but is now viewed predominantly as a lock.  

Front-rower Bunty Afoa said the pack has vowed to provide Keighran with plenty of protection in the middle, acknowledging he will be an obvious target for Manly's big men.

"We told Adam we will look after him out there," Afoa told NRL.com.

"For us middles it's all about looking after him, making sure our comms with him are nice and clear.

"It's an all new role for him in the middle and it's going to be a busy night for him when it comes to tackling.

"We back him in his defence, but we can try and make his night a bit easier, stay close to him and try and generate line speed with him.

"It's been a cold run for him, he played three games at the start of the year and now we are coming down to crunch time and he's back and he's full of energy and excitement."

The Sea Eagles have won six of their last seven games and head to Auckland in fifth position on the Telstra Premiership ladder.

Australian ginger Warrior Adam Keighran will line up at hooker.
Australian ginger Warrior Adam Keighran will line up at hooker. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

With starting props Martin Taupau and Addin Fonua-Blake each averaging over 150 run metres per game, Warriors forward Isaiah Papali'i said there was no doubt Manly's pack was their biggest strength.  

"You can't help but watch them, they've been flying and every week they are on some kind of highlight package," Papali'i told NRL.com.

"They roll well, they take the load off each other with Marty, Addin and the people off the bench all contributing and managing themselves well.

"They are working well together, they understand each other's way of playing, so we just have to man up and match it."