Issac Luke is set to part ways with the Warriors, with this season expected to be his last in Auckland.

Although the former Kiwis hooker has been one of the club's best in 2018 - a major part of their unexpected revival - the Herald on Sunday understands it's unlikely he will be at Mt Smart next season.

There could still be a change in circumstances that see Luke remain in Auckland beyond 2018 but that prospect is at long odds.

The primary issue is the salary cap and the lack of space the club have to work with. Unlike other clubs, who seem to have a bottomless pit, aided by third party payments, the Warriors have to work within strict confines.


The landscape has changed significantly since Luke and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck were signed on big deals ahead of the 2016 season.

Although the Warriors have offloaded some players who were taking up a decent portion of the cap, such as Ryan Hoffman, Manu Vatuvei and Ben Matulino, the club have also invested heavily.

Shaun Johnson's new deal was worth more than $1 million a year, and Tuivasa-Sheck signed an upgraded contract in March. Tohu Harris was lured from Melbourne, with the club trumping a large Storm offer, Adam Blair and Blake Green command significant salaries and Gerard Beale and Peta Hiku are Kiwi internationals.

It means there is a reasonable disparity between what the club forked out to prise Luke from the Rabbitohs and what they are able to offer now.

At times, Luke seems ageless, but at 31, the Taranaki product also needs to make his next contract count.

He may not want to leave the Warriors, especially given the team's progress, but might feel he has little choice.

The other factor is the hooking stocks at the club. Despite his wretched run with injuries, there is great faith in the potential of Nathaniel Roache. The 22-year-old has played only nine games since the start of the 2017 season but is seen as the long-term No9. Karl Lawton has also impressed in his limited opportunities.

It's a tricky decision, as the dummy half role has become one of the most important in the game. Luke, with his remarkable strength (kilo for kilo, one of the strongest in the NRL) and speed, has been key to several Warriors wins this year, and was at his brilliant best again last night in Christchurch. His form has been in stark contrast to his first two seasons at the club, when he mixed rocks and diamonds.


"I've just got to let my game do the talking," said Luke, when asked about his future. "I just want to perform on the field. I don't really want to think too much about my future, it's something I will let my manager sort out with the club."

Warriors coach Stephen Kearney admitted it was a conundrum.

"It's a difficult one," Kearney told the Herald on Sunday. "It's a process we are working through. We have got a couple of other guys, too, so it's a situation where there are other pieces in the puzzle that we have to shuffle into place first.

"It will be a decision that will probably crystallise for both parties in a couple of weeks or so."

Kearney also confirmed the club's war chest is far from overflowing.

"[The offer] will be different ... different to what he is on. The decision might be taken out of my hands. The reality is, his expectation is one thing, and our position is another. A lot of times they don't match at the best of times."