NRL: Issac Luke dropped by Warriors for Dragons game

2019-05-07 06:05:55

Issac Luke has been axed from the Warriors team for Saturday night's game against the Dragons in Brisbane.

The experienced hooker has been replaced in the starting lineup by Nathaniel Roache, while Jazz Tevaga returns to the interchange bench, having missed the 36-18 loss to the Knights last weekend through injury.

Karl Lawton, who has played one NRL game this season, is also in the 17 as the backup hooker.

But Warriors coach Stephen Kearney has decided there is no room in the 17 for the Kiwi international and has put him onto the extended interchange list, which generally means he's unlikely to play.

"It's just a matter of changing the energy and dynamic of the group and where it's going to suit us this week," Kearney said in an interview on Radio Sport.

"That's what I think is best for the team this week and that's why I ran with it."

As one of the senior players in the Warriors team, Luke's demotion is a significant decision by Kearney and it's the second time he's suffered a drop in form at the club.

Just before this season began, the Warriors doubled his salary, which was believed to be $160,000 for the year, when the Eels looked to exploit a clause in his contract, which would allow him to leave immediately.

To keep him at the club, the Warriors offered him an improved one-year deal.

It has been thought that this would be his last year at the Warriors and in recent weeks he has spoken openly about moving back to Australia with his family next year.

Adam Blair, whose spot in the team could have also been in doubt because of  poor form, will miss the game because of a one-week suspension for a dangerous throw on Hymel Hunt during the first half of the Warriors' 36-18 defeat at Mt Smart Stadium on Sunday.

As expected, Kodi Nikorima will make his Warriors debut, slotting in the halves alongside Blake Green.

The 25-year-old Palmerston North-born Kiwi international will become Warrior No 236, eight days after being signed from the Brisbane Broncos.

Lachlan Burr also landed a dangerous throw charge but is free to play after he took an early guilty plea.

Right wing David Fusitu'a is again included in the hope he will return from the rib injury which has ruled him out of the last two matches against Melbourne and Newcastle while prop Bunty Afoa is in line to return from a leg injury.

Ligi Sao, who has played well in the NSW Cup in recent weeks, comes into the 17 as a replacement for Blair.

Chanel Harris-Tavita, who has played the last five games, is on the extended bench with utility Gerard Beale, prop Chris Satae and Luke.

The Dragons are coming off two straight losses including a 32-18 loss to Parramatta on Sunday which leaves them eighth on the ladder with eight points, four points ahead of the Warriors who are 12th after their 36-18 defeat by the Knights.

The Warriors have won just seven of 28 clashes against the Dragons but have won two of the last three.

Warriors: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, David Fusitu'a, Peta Hiku, Patrick Herbert, Ken Maumalo,  Kodi Nikorima, Blake Green, Agnatius Paasi, Nathaniel Roache, Leeson Ah Mau, Isaiah Papali'i, Tohu Harris, Lachlan Burr. Interchange (from): Jazz Tevaga, Bunty Afoa, Ligi Sao, Karl Lawton, Gerard Beale, Chris Satae, Chanel Harris-Tavita, Issac Luke.

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