Issac Luke is gearing up for some heavy traffic to come his way when the NRL makes its debut in his home province of Taranaki.
The hooker has been restored to the Warriors’ starting line-up to face the Canberra Raiders in New Plymouth on Saturday night.
“They have a monstrous forward pack,” Luke said.
“We know where a lot of their yards are made though, so a lot of work, a lot of big boys running at me. I guess that’s why we play the game.”
Luke will also have to keep in check “a pretty crafty dummy half” in Englishman Josh Hodgson, who has been in sharp touch for the Raiders.
His own form for the Warriors hasn’t yet matched his status as a star off-season arrival from South Sydney.
But there have been encouraging recent signs from a player with 36 Kiwis caps and he has begun to show more of his dangerous running from dummy half.
Luke, 28, was born and raised in Hawera, 70km south of New Plymouth.
He played at Yarrow Stadium in 2008 for the All Golds against the NZ Maori, but to be part of an NRL fixture there, in what is his 10th season of first grade, would be “pretty special”.
Both teams began the latest round outside the top eight and struggling for consistency.
After bashing the Wests Tigers 60-6, the Raiders have fallen to two late defeats, giving them just two wins in their past eight games.
They will be without lock Shaun Fensom, who is out with a shoulder problem and has been replaced by Luke Bateman.
Prop Jeff Lima is back from injury and is joined on an extended bench by fellow former Kiwi Frank-Paul Nuuausala.
The Warriors are missing their top try-scorer, centre Solomone Kata, who is serving a one-match ban for dangerous contact.
But they welcome back lock Simon Mannering, who sat out the last two rounds with a facial injury.
In Mannering’s absence, a patch-up Warriors side beat the Dragons, but then went down to Penrith in Christchurch last weekend.
Luke agreed that crucial errors again proved costly against the Panthers, saying: “Every time we’ve lost, we’ve pretty much shot ourselves in the foot.”
STATS THAT MATTER
* The Warriors have won their last five matches against Canberra to level the clubs’ head-to-head at 17-17.
* Jarrod Croker, the Raiders’ all-time leading points scorer, has 12 tries in 12 appearances against the Warriors.
* Former Canberra half Andrew McFadden has won all of his four matches as Warriors coach against the Raiders.