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Stephen Kearney gives Issac Luke a 'kick up the backside' ahead of clash with Kiwis rival Brandon Smith, Storm

Stephen Kearney says "a kick up the backside" has revived Issac Luke's Warriors stocks, while it may have also extended the hooker's Test career.

Luke concedes he is fortunate to still be in the first grade team following a clunky start to 2019.

Dropped to reserve grade for last month's magic round win over St George Illawarra, the 32-year-old was thrown a lifeline when Nathaniel Roache suffered a back injury which sidelined him from the win over Penrith and the loss to Brisbane.

A typically-pragmatic Kearney said Luke was "pretty good" against the Panthers and "ok" against the Broncos, which represented an improvement on his earlier struggles.

"Sometimes that's what it takes, a bit of a kick in the backside to get yourself going again," Kearney said.

"Has it worked for him? The last couple of games there has been improvement. The real strength of his is his running game and I thought prior to then, it wasn't quite at the level that we expect from him and he expects from himself."

Roache has recovered from injury but will miss Saturday's match against Melbourne in Auckland with what Kearney described as a "personal issue".

Luke's form will be closely monitored by Kiwis coach Michael Maguire, who couldn't take his former South Sydney premiership-winning rake on last year's tour of England because of off-season surgery.

Brandon Smith owned the New Zealand No.9 jersey on that tour, but has once again had to settle for a bench role at the Storm this season.

It adds a fascinating subplot to the Mt Smart Stadium clash, with both hookers on show vying for a Test berth against Tonga - a match which will be staged at the same venue two weeks later.

Veteran Warriors forward Adam Blair - another dumped to reserve grade for a spell because of modest form - is starting in his 299th NRL appearance.

Prop Agnatius Paasi returns after suspension, bringing mana in the middle third that Kearney valued early in the campaign while Blair struggled and the Warriors came to grips with the absence of retired club great, Simon Mannering.

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The Warriors coach said form, not experience, determines who makes the cut for gameday. Source: 1 NEWS


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