David Skipwith is the Herald's rugby league reporter

NRL: Warriors hooker Issac Luke facing month on sidelines

The Warriors finals hopes have suffered a major blow with hooker Issac Luke potentially out for a month with injury. Photo / Getty Images.
The Warriors finals hopes have suffered a major blow with hooker Issac Luke potentially out for a month with injury. Photo / Getty Images.

The Warriors are hoping another serious injury to one of their key playmakers does not curtail their NRL finals hopes after losing star hooker Issac Luke for up to a month with meniscus tear in his knee.

After losing halfback Shaun Johnson to a season ending broken ankle last July, the Warriors bowed out of finals contention in spectacular fashion by losing their last eight matches.

Luke will undergo arthroscopic surgery early next week and is expected to be sidelined for a month with the possibility he could return for the final round clash against Parramatta at Mt Smart Stadium on September 4.

With the Warriors in eighth position on the NRL ladder and looking to clinch their first finals appearance since 2011, the loss of Luke is yet another blow to the side in what has been a tumultuous season.

The 29-year-old will now join fellow marquee offseason signing Roger Tuivasa-Sheck in the club's rehab unit after the former Sydney Roosters premiership winner's season ended with an ACL injury after just seven matches.

Luke also had a rough start to his time at the Warriors, as he struggled for fitness and form to see the former Kiwis co-captain overlooked by New Zealand coach Stephen Kearney for the Anzac test against the Kangaroos.

With those issues affecting the side's cohesion, the Warriors struggled for consistency throughout the first half of the campaign, during which the club threatened to be engulfed by the prescription pills and energy drinks scandal following their 42-0 Anzac Day thrashing at the hands of Melbourne.

Further misery was heaped upon them with consecutive defeats to Penrith and Canberra, before a rejuvenated Luke rediscovered his running game to help them achieve three straight victories over Brisbane, Newcastle and the Sydney Roosters.

The Penrose-based club was then cruelly denied in three golden point contests in their next four games, before breaking their extra time hoodoo in Saturday's 20-16 win over Penrith.

They now head to the Gold Coast to face a Titans outfit boosted by the midweek signing of former Eels fullback, San Francisco 49er and Olympics hopeful Jarryd Hayne, and former Warrior Konrad Hurrell ready to take on his old teammates for the first time.

Coach Andrew McFadden admitted Luke's injury was a cruel blow, with the Warriors needing to win four of their final five matches to secure a finals berth.

"We're very disappointed," said McFadden.

"He's a big loss for us. But this is how quickly things can change.

"Hopefully it's minor enough to be able to get him back before the season's finished."

Nathaniel Roache was named on the Warriors bench but is expected to take Luke's place in the starting side while Jazz Tevaga has been added to the squad.

The two 20-year-old rookies have both played at hooker this season with Roache making seven appearances and Tevaga nine.

McFadden was pleased with improvements in Roache's play since he last appeared off the bench in the 27-18 win over the Titans at Mt Smart Stadium in round 17.

Also comfortable at fullback and five-eighth, Roache offers more creativity at dummyhalf than Tevaga, who is a converted back-rower.

"He's probably a more traditional running hooker," said MacFadden.

"I've been watching Nathaniel play in the last couple of weeks and he really gives us some threat around there.

"Jazz is really a defensive player. He's done a good job and he's only just learning the hooker position."

The Warriors have some flexibility with five-eighth Thomas Leuluai also adept at the No9 role, and the versatility of fullback Tui Lolohea and centre David Fusitu'a means McFadden could yet spring some surprises ahead of Sunday's 4pm kick-off.

The club's long suffering fans and McFadden - who remains under pressure to retain his job - will be hoping they can find the right blend to ensure the wheels do not fall off over the next five weeks.

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