Isaac Luke in career-best shape for second Warriors season

NZ Warriors hooker Issac Luke has slimmed down, healed up and done all he can to get into gear for 2017.

Luke, 29, heads into his second year with the club, after a debut campaign in which he made 20 appearances, but battled various knee complaints.

Transferring from the Rabbitohs, where he had played all of his NRL football, the Taranaki native also struggled with his weight.

But after taking part in the Kiwis' failed Four Nations defence in November, Luke said he had returned to pre-season training in career-best shape.

He had lost four kilos to sit at 87kg, a weight closer to that which he had at South Sydney, and had rid himself of lingering calf and knee issues.

"I'm pretty happy and the staff's happy too, so everything's going well so far, but obviously I have to perform on the field," Luke said.

"I feel better, definitely better."

Having sat out the side's failed Nines tilt and trial against Melbourne, Luke will pull the boots back on this weekend against Gold Coast in Palmerston North.

He will be joined by fellow stalwarts Jacob Lillyman and vice-captain Simon Mannering for the encounter, which is the last before Round One against the Knights.

Luke said a strong showing was all the more important to safeguard his No. 9 jumper, with Jazz Tevaga and Nate Roache breathing down his neck.

Head coach Stephen Kearney agreed, saying he expected a genuine performance from each player selected. That included chosen five-eighth Ata Hingano, who will have a challenge on his hands to retain the No. 6 role after Kieran Foran's return in Round Three.

"We have Round One in our sights and focus so it'll be pretty much close to game time and interchange, maybe just a few adjustments," Kearney said.

"It's about making sure we do improve on the areas we want to improve on, so we can take that into Round One."

The Warriors have not played in Manawatu since their debut 1995 campaign.

The Titans, meanwhile, will not bring superstar Jarryd Hayne, after the former NFL player took part in last week's Nines.

WARRIORS: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (capt), Tuimoala Lolohea, David Fusitu'a, Solomone Kata, Ken Maumalo, Ata Hingano, Shaun Johnson, Sam Lisone, Issac Luke, Jacob Lillyman, Bunty Afoa, Ryan Hoffman, Simon Mannering.
Interchange: Albert Vete, James Gavet, Blake Ayshford, Junior Pauga, James Bell, Charlie Gubb, Mason Lino, Isaiah Papalii, Erin Clark

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