Diary Of An Aotearoa Warriors Fan: Bully's Gonna Gap?

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Having only recently truly explored how important Issac Luke could be to Aotearoa Warriors this season, Parramatta Eels apparently explored an avenue to snap up Luke prior to the start of this season. It was purely a coincidence - or maybe not - that Luke was signed and then Shaun Johnson decided to move on and without Johnson, the Warriors demand for Bully increases significantly as his running, kicking and play-making at dummy half is the foundation from which lovely halves play is built upon.

There are numerous factors at play with regards to this Luke to Parramatta news and while we all know how unfortunately crazy, messy and a general shambles the NRL's player market is, we must also take into account that the same applies to the Australian media. The Australian media needs NRL yarns because they need eye-balls and whether it's telling you all you need to know about the small percentage of NRL players who are weirdos, or rolling through worst-case scenarios for clubs with apparent salary cap issues; these yarns serve the purpose of getting eye-balls to their kinda tabloidy content.

To extrapolate that out a bit further, the Australian NRL media try to portray themselves as the gatekeepers who represent fans and keep the NRL honest. In reality, they only care about views and money.

Much of the Warriors news and this Luke stuff, is coming out of kiwi mainstream media though. While the same theory can be applied, rugby league in kiwi media is not the yucky pile of poo that it is in Sydney and what we have with the kiwi media, is more about the player agents having direct relationships with media outlets and those mainstream media jokers. Or, the club has a direct line to the media. Either way, keep this in mind and ask relevant questions when exploring that content.

To bring this back around to Luke, to assume that figures and contract clauses reported by the media are factual, is silly. The media may suggest that Luke is on whatever money, which may be correct, however there are all sorts of other deals available that could bolster the strict contract amount - let alone any salary cap antics. But again, if a media outlet is reporting a number, ask yourself who benefits from that number being leaked and whether you reckon it's true or not.

It seems weird, that Luke would have an initial desire to come back to Aotearoa and then stay in Aotearoa having settled in Auckland, then demand a clause that releases him to the highest bidder in Australia. Super possible, just a bit wtf.

It also seems weird, that with Johnson's departure, no experienced dummy half as well as the window for success being open right now, the Warriors would then allow Luke to waltz off to Parramatta. The Warriors have Nathaniel Roache, Sam Cook and Sean Mullany on their roster at the moment, none of whom have shown any signs of being capable of starting at hooker in the NRL and playing 50+ minutes. Nor have those three shown anything that resembles the all-round skill package of Luke - have you see Roache make a long kick, let alone a 40/20?

I don't believe there is any angst between the Warriors (most notably Stephen Kearney) and Luke. The contract stuff last year was based around money, which has been eased by Johnson's departure. I also seem to have a higher opinion than most, about Luke as a player and a person, which leads me to a gut feeling that Luke enjoys being a Warrior, is aware of the possibilities that are opening up in terms of on-field success, along with him laying some foundations in Aotearoa.

Why would Luke, not want to be a Warrior in 2019? He's playing alongside a hearty group of Kiwis, the club is trending in the right direction and he's living in Aotearoa. That's why Luke took what was apparently a discounted offer from the Warriors in the first place, so for all that to flip would be strange.

And it's completely possible because the NRL is as strange as it gets. These are merely me unloading my brain, I've got no insider knowledge or any great insight that backs this up. We all know that shit hits the NRL fan, quickly. Luke could be gone tomorrow and the Warriors' Championship window closes rather significantly.

Many folk seem to think that Johnson's departure saw that Championship window shut instantly, like all the way closed. I reckon it stayed just as open as it was before and perhaps got a greased up a wee bit as there was potential for the window to fling open even further after a few rounds. This is based on my belief that much of the squad have improved over summer; if all the role-players improve a few levels, then the collective improves and absorbs the loss of Johnson.

With Bully at hooker, that Championship window is as open as it is for any other NRL club. Without Bully, everyone involved - from coaches to fans - needs to understand that expectations drop dramatically. Luke would be have to be desperate for some cash to leave a club that has all the pieces in place for a top-four spot and huge upside, along with the Aotearoa factor. While the Warriors would have to be on another planet to let a crucial cog to that huge upside, depart Mt Smart prior to the season starting.

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Peace and love 27.