Warriors focus on themselves – not ref blunders – as Issac Luke starts against Broncos


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With NRL head of football Graham Annesley admitting the referees dropped the ball in a big way during their last-gasp win over the Knights, you could forgive the Warriors for wanting to vent their frustration.

But there was no sticking the boot in from the players. They just want to focus on taking the match officials out of the equation.

Part of that was probably due to the fact the Auckland club managed to escape Newcastle with a 24-20 victory on Saturday that kept them in touch with the top eight. But the result could have easily gone the other way after three crucial calls went against Stephen Kearney’s side.

The two most perplexing decisions came in the final 15 minutes. Moments after bunker officials overturned what appeared to be a certain try to Ken Maumalo, referees Adam Gee and Gavin Badger failed to stop play for a concussed Peta Hiku, with the Knights scoring in the next play to take the lead.

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Warriors veteran Adam Blair admitted they “were all quite surprised” when play was allowed to continue. But that was ultimately the reason they came unstuck, added Blair, as the Warriors broke the fundamental rule of not playing to the whistle. 

“The lesson for us with those things is staying in the moment until something actually stops the game,” he said.

Adam Blair says the Warriors need to take the referees out of the game rather than complain about poor calls.

PATRICK HAMILTON/PHOTOSPORT

Adam Blair says the Warriors need to take the referees out of the game rather than complain about poor calls.

“There’s a couple of moments there – the Mason (Lino) one and the Pita Hiku one – that we most probably clocked off because we thought the ref was going to stop it.

“If we’re playing well enough to win games then we won’t rely on refs’ calls.”

The Warriors haven’t always coped with such setbacks this season and, as a result, have come up short in several close games.

The fact the Knights were missing several stars to injury and Origin cannot be overlooked. But neither should the way the Warriors kept their composure under adversity at the death to seal the two points.

And it’s provided a timely confidence boost heading into Saturday’s clash against the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium.

Hooker Issac Luke has returned to the starting lineup after Karl Lawton was ruled out with a shoulder injury.

TONY FEDER/GETTY IMAGES

Hooker Issac Luke has returned to the starting lineup after Karl Lawton was ruled out with a shoulder injury.

“For us as a team, it obviously frustrates you but we have to be able to control that frustration out on the field because there’s still a job to do at the end of the day – to go out there and win the game,” Blair said.

“The good thing about the group is that we were frustrated at the time but we spoke about that, got rid of that and moved forward. 

“I think that’s the lesson we’ve learned throughout the season. When things aren’t going our way, it’s just to talk about it, flush it out and then move forward to the next job.”

The Warriors will travel to Brisbane minus hooker Karl Lawton, who left the field after just 14 minutes last week due to a shoulder injury.

Veteran dummy-half Issac Luke has returned to the starting side in his absence, with rookie playmaker Chanel Harris-Tavita set to make his first NRL appearance since May after being named in the No 17 jersey.

Lawton’s injury is still being assessed but with luckless hooker Nathaniel Roache sidelined with a season-ending knee injury, lock Jazz Tevaga will provide cover at dummy-half.

The rest of the 17 is the same as the one used in Newcastle, with Gerard Beale retaining his place in the centres after Patrick Herbert picked up a hamstring injury during last week’s captain’s run.

The 11th-ranked Warriors sit three places above the Broncos, but only via for and against with both teams two points outside the top eight.

The Warriors have won six of 13 away clashes against the Broncos, including a 26-6 victory when they last played at Suncorp Stadium in July last year. 

Brisbane prevailed 8-2 when the teams met at Mt Smart Stadium in May, with the sole try-scorer that night, key playmaker Anthony Milford, poised to return after missing last week’s win over Cronulla with a knee injury.

AT A GLANCE

Warriors: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (c), David Fusitu’a, Peta Hiku, Gerard Beale, Ken Maumalo, Kodi Nikorima, Blake Green, Agnastius Paasi, Issac Luke, Leeson Ah Mau, Adam Blair, Isaiah Papali’i, Jazz Tevaga. Interchange (from): Lachlan Burr, Sam Lisone, Bunty Afoa, Chanel Harris-Tavita, Hayze Perham, Blake Ayshford, Ligi Sao, Leivaha Pulu