NZ Warriors eyeing star pair Hoffman, Luke

SARAH HARVEY
Last updated 05:00 04/05/2014
Issac Luke
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TOP TARGET: South Sydney hooker Issac Luke is on the Warriors' radar despite being under contract to the Rabbitohs until 2015.

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The Warriors are scouring the NRL for a seasoned hard man to bolster their ranks, and Storm back-rower Ryan Hoffman and Kiwis hooker Issac Luke are in their sights.

Luke, in particular, would provide an enormous boost to the Warriors if they could prise him away from the Rabbitohs before the end of his contract in 2015. The nuggety hooker has played 29 tests for the Kiwis and is considered the best dummy half in the game after Kangaroos skipper Cameron Smith.

Warriors chief executive Wayne Scurrah said the club had not had any formal discussions with Luke, because he is not off-contract, but recognised that he was an "international player, a top player".

A Luke signing could mean curtains for current Warriors hooker Nathan Friend, who has been with the club since the start of 2012 and is off-contract at the season's end, but it could do wonders for the Warriors pack.

Luke, 26, has never played for anyone else but the Bunnies and when he re-signed with them for four more years in 2011 he said it was a "dream come true". Despite growing up in New Zealand, he regarded Sydney as home.

Hoffman, who turned 30 in January, is off-contract at the end of the season and therefore fair game for the Warriors.

He has appeared in five tests for the Kangaroos and eight State of Origin games, and the Warriors see him as a player in the same ilk as former club stalwart Micheal Luck. Hoffman has made more than 230 appearances in first-grade for the Storm and also had a year in the English Super League with Wigan.

Scurrah declined to comment on whether the Warriors were chasing him but the Sunday Star-Times understands the club has held formal talks and a deal is on the table.

Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that Warriors fullback Kevin Locke has signed a three-year deal with the Salford Red Devils in the UK Super League.

The owner of Salford, millionaire Marwan Koukash, was understood to have visited Auckland this week and had discussions with Locke, his management and the Warriors.

"I'm pretty shocked really, pretty surprised," Locke's Warriors team-mate Shaun Johnson said.

"We sort of all knew something was going to happen. He doesn't belong in reserve grade, does he? I knew something was going to have to give but I'm surprised he didn't go to another NRL club."

Locke, 25, has effectively been pushed out of the Warriors by the signing of Sam Tomkins from Wigan. Had Locke stayed with the Auckland-based club he would have likely had to play out of his preferred fullback position.

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Locke, who represented New Zealand eight times and has made 87 appearances for the Warriors, will link up with his new team for pre-season training in October.

- Sunday Star Times

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