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

League: Classy double act adds extra buzz to first game of season

Issac Luke of the Warriors. Photo / Getty Images
Issac Luke of the Warriors. Photo / Getty Images

And so it begins. Today is not just the start of the Warriors' 2016 campaign, it's also the beginning of the Issac Luke-Roger Tuivasa-Sheck double act.

Since they were signed last year, there has been a buzz in the air; an expectation around Auckland that the dynamic duo could turn the Warriors around. That is a bit unfair - they can't be sole saviours - but their presence adds a considerable spark to the Mt Smart club.

It's hard to remember a similar level of excitement about a double signing here, perhaps back to Steve Price and Ruben Wiki in 2005. Tuivasa-Sheck has the potential to be the best fullback in the game, already almost without peer with his running game. Luke is entering his 10th NRL season but remains in the top bracket of hookers, with his ability to generate forward momentum through his darting runs, as well as being a tough defender.

"They are class players and class players have an impact on those around them," said coach Andrew McFadden.

"They set the standard because of the way they train ... everyone learns from what they do."

The duo have already formed a strong bond; they are different characters but have become quite close, ever since their respective transfers were announced within a few weeks of each other last year. "I whispered in his ear about coming home and he said 'nah you're lying'," laughed Luke. "Then when he found out, Roger rang me and said 'That's us, bro, let's get into it'."

Tuivasa-Sheck is still learning the fullback role - he's only played 24 games there - and has been given a lot of responsibility, for both club and country. That's a big ask for a 22-year-old but he is mature beyond his years.

"More than anything I'm excited," said Tuivasa-Sheck. "There has been a lot of talk in the pre-season, a lot of hype, but now it's like 'let's go'."

The crucial element in the equation is how the rest of the squad lift their own standards. It was nowhere near good enough for most of last year.

The jury is also out on how the Warriors will use their two new stars. The Roosters backline was a well-oiled machine, where Tuivasa-Sheck slotted in perfectly. That hasn't been the case with the Warriors back division in the past two years, often inaccurate in attack and fragile defensively. The Warriors will also have to adjust to Luke's tendency to pass moments before the defensive line, quite different to Nathan Friend's more orthodox approach.

"As soon as there's one player on the ground he's taking off and sometimes we're not used to that," admitted Ben Matulino. "We've got to adapt to his game."

"They will be big for us," said Manu Vatuvei. "Issac is a good leader, especially with all the young guys in the forward pack. Roger has got a massive role at the back, especially directing the boys around the park. They are ready to go."

- NZ Herald

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