David Skipwith is the Herald's rugby league reporter

NRL: Issac Luke - I wouldn't pick me for Kiwis

Warriors hooker Issac Luke. Photo/Getty.
Warriors hooker Issac Luke. Photo/Getty.

Warriors hooker Issac Luke has said if he was Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney, he would not pick himself for the upcoming transtasman test against the Kangaroos.

The stark admission comes in the wake of the Warriors' humiliating 42-0 Anzac Day defeat to Melbourne, with Luke admitting his poor early season form is below the standards expected after joining the club as one of their marquee offseason signings.

The former South Sydney premiership winner had his fitness questioned after struggling with knee and calf injuries through the early rounds, while off-field complications with the health of his new born baby last month also proved a distraction.

He came in for criticism for a lack of running and the Warriors attack looked disjointed as he developed combinations with the forwards and halfback Shaun Johnson. There were signs of improvement in wins over the Roosters and Bulldogs but Luke has largely failed to stamp his mark in a side lacking leadership and direction.

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The Kiwis side to face the Kangaroos in Newcastle next Friday will be named on Sunday evening and Luke has largely been an automatic selection since his debut in 2008. He's since played 36 tests and was co-captain on last year's UK tour when Simon Mannering was absent.

"To be perfectly honest, if I was Stephen Kearney I would probably leave me out of this [test]," the 28-year-old said. "I'm not happy with my performances. I have been pretty up and down the whole season. It hurts but I would rather him having a comfortable team that he's looking for to take on the Aussies.

"I have had to work really hard for it [getting into the Kiwis] and this year I don't think I have matched the requirements for the Kiwi jersey. If Mooks (Kearney) gives me the opportunity, I will grab it with both hands and obviously do my best."

Luke's honest appraisal follows a warning from Kearney last week that he was no certainty for Kiwis selection.

Johnson and Parramatta five-eighth Kieran Foran were also put on notice, with Kearney saying the depth of quality players available provided him with plenty of options at hooker and in the halves.

"When you say Issac, there's no guarantee of a position," Kearney told Radio Sport. "Kieran and Shaun have been very good for us in the past, Issac certainly comes into consideration, but we have a couple of other options there too.

"We haven't made our minds up definitely there."

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In terms of who could fill the No9 jersey in place of Luke, versatile Warriors teammate Thomas Leuluai is one candidate while also offering cover at lock and through the halves.

Lewis Brown is another option, with the Manly utility a renowned Mr Fix It who has served Kearney well off the bench in the past and capable of slotting in at dummyhalf, the back-row or out in the centres.

The potential bolter remains Brisbane livewire Kodi Nikorima, who has been promoted to the starting line-up for Sunday's clash against Cronulla with regular hooker Andrew McCullough out with a hamstring injury.

Nikorima debuted at halfback against England last year, playing all three tests, and has close links to Kearney in his role as Wayne Bennett's assistant at the Broncos.

The Warriors' must-win match against the Dragons at Mt Smart Stadium on Sunday presents a final opportunity for Luke, Johnson and other Kiwis hopefuls to redeem themselves.

But another poor display could force Kearney's hand and a demotion at club level could also follow with Warriors coach Andrew McFadden fast running short on patience.

- NZ Herald

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