Michael Burgess

Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

NRL: Luke who Warriors want now

The Warriors are interested in South Sydney hooker Issac Luke. Photo / Getty Images
The Warriors are interested in South Sydney hooker Issac Luke. Photo / Getty Images

Issac Luke has emerged as a major recruitment target for the Warriors - and the Kiwis hooker admits it would be "great to come home".

The Auckland club have identified certain players and positions as they look to strengthen their roster and Luke is prominent on that list.

Luke, who last season was rated statistically as the best No 9 in the competition, even ahead of Cameron Smith, is the kind of player that could add a new dimension to the Warriors. He is arguably the most effective dummy half runner in the NRL and is a fearless defender. Last year Luke made more tackles per game that any other Souths player, was only topped by Adam Reynolds for try assists and contributed 16 line break assists (a Rabbitohs high). "We will see how things roll out," Luke told the Herald on Sunday.

"I have a lot to think about. It would be great to come home one day but at the moment my focus is on performing for the Rabbitohs".

Luke is contracted at Souths until the end of next season. However, as we have seen in recent years in the NRL, that may not be an insurmountable issue.

With their star studded roster the Rabbitohs are under constant salary cap pressure and his status in the game means Luke is on a substantial contract at the club. Apisai Koroisau and Cameron McInnes have also proved able deputies since Luke has been out injured (he has missed the last five matches) giving Souths other options for the future.

It's also a crucial time for the former Hawera Hawk, who will turn 27 this month. Coming into his prime, his next deal is likely to be his last big contract.

"Actually my wife pointed that out," laughs Luke. "I need to make sure this one is a good one."

The Warriors also pursued Luke in 2011, before he eventually re-signed a lucrative deal with the Rabbitohs. He has some history with the Warriors, having visited the club as a promising 15-year-old with his father, before eventually being lured across the Tasman, first to Belmore then Redfern.

The ongoing development of Siliva Havili is another consideration for the Auckland club, especially with the potential that the former Tongan international displayed in the Anzac test on Friday night.

"It's definitely something to think about," says Luke of the Warriors' interest. "I need to see what Souths come up with then I have to make a decision ... it could be soon, it could be in a few months, or it could be next year."

The Warriors' other main recruitment focus is at centre, with Manly's Steve Matai among several potential targets.

Meanwhile, Luke was a proud but frustrated spectator on Friday night, as the Kiwis pushed the Kangaroos to the limit before losing 30-18.

"It was an outstanding effort," says Luke. "It was a slap in the face for all those people who were predicting cricket scores. They stayed with the Australians and didn't back down. It shows the potential for the future."

Luke was particularly impressed with Havili and Ben Henry, with both youngsters filling the hooking role with aplomb.

"I'm a bit worried about my place," says Luke. "They went really well; it's a tough position - a lot of the time you are just stuck in a washing machine."

Luke, who injured his shoulder in the round three loss to the Tigers, hopes to be back in training this week.

- Herald on Sunday

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf02 at 25 Nov 2014 04:25:55 Processing Time: 366ms