Warriors hooker Issac Luke says his side's forwards can set the tone for the rest of their season by containing South Sydney's monster forward pack in tomorrow night's season-opening NRL clash in Perth.
The 30-year-old former Rabbitohs premiership winner is unfazed by the prospect of lining up against his former teammates but is excited for the round one clash as the Warriors look to break their Perth jinx at the new 60,000 seat Optus Stadium.
The Warriors are searching for a first win in 10 visits to Western Australia and Luke says the result could hinge on their ability to limit the Rabbitohs' momentum in the middle of the park.
Contrasting the Warriors poor run of results in the west, this is the 10th consecutive year the Rabbitohs have taken a match to Perth, where they managed three-straight victories over the Kiwi outfit between 2013 and 2015.
"It's a big test for our forwards," Luke said. "It will probably set the benchmark that we need to meet throughout the season and it's just a good coincidence that it's against South Sydney.
"It's not something I'm worried about. I'm just thinking about trying to play some good footy for the Warriors.
"I know what we're coming up against and I'm really looking forward to this challenge.
"They have got the Burgess twins [Tom and George] and Sam, Angus Crichton and John Sutton, and they're all at least six feet tall.
"So we've got a big task, but at the same time I'm confident in our forwards and what we can bring. We'll find out on Saturday."
Warriors coach Stephen Kearney agreed his side needed to stifle the Rabbitohs go-forward and ruck speed if they were to claim a historic victory.
"They have got a big pack, there's no doubt about that," said Kearney. "But we've got some skill within our pack that I'm sure can help us there. That's going to definitely be part of the challenge — the physical challenge with the body types that they are."
Meanwhile, Luke's fitness is continuing to improve after a niggling hamstring injury troubled the former Kiwis test hooker throughout pre-season. Luke surprised the club's medical staff when he was cleared ahead of schedule before turning in a strong performance in their second trial win over Gold Coast a fortnight ago.
The last two weeks have seen him play an increased role at training, although his workload has been carefully monitored, along with that of other senior Warriors.
"Those things [injuries] are going to happen. I'm getting old and I probably can't move as fast as I could before," Luke said.
"The medical staff had a timeframe for me to return and I managed to tick all the boxes. They didn't think I was going to play the Titans game but I managed to get through that.
"I'm sort of the koro of the team and I've been doing a lot of things with the older players in terms of managing our loads. The team have been getting through some pretty hard work but the rehab or 'elderly group' have been doing just as much cardio."
And while Luke insists he has no sentimental feelings about tomorrow's clash, he expects there's a good chance his good mate, Hollywood star and Rabbitohs part-owner Russell Crowe will be keen to catch up with him during the lead-up to the match.
"He was supposed to come to the game. I messaged him and asked if he was going to be there. He said he didn't know but he hasn't missed any of my games [against Souths], so we'll see if he turns up. I bet I'll get a call during the week to see if I want to go to lunch or something."