Steve Price thought he was being sold a dummy when he found out he would be made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit.
The proud Queenslander and former New Zealand Warriors captain had to check with the people who manage the honours system to see if they realised one important fact.
"I didn't know whether I was allowed to accept it. I actually said to the lady, 'You know, don't you, that I'm Australian? I'll have to take some advice from the [Mad] Butcher [Sir Peter Leitch]. He gets these types of awards all the time."
The MNZM further underscores Price's status as the country's favourite Australian - a tag he thought at first was a bit of a cheeky dig. He chuckles about it now. "You don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing. They say 'you're our favourite but we don't like Aussies but you're our favourite'."
Price, 36, was recognised for his services to league, his citation noting his arrival after the tail of the club's worst season, five years as captain from 2005 to 2009, his mentoring of younger players and how he led the club with "honesty and integrity" when it was investigated for salary cap breaches.
Moving across the Ditch didn't come without risks. But Price said he and wife Jo decided when they arrived with children Jamie-Lee, 14, Kasey, 12, and Riley, 9, that they wanted to be as involved in the community as possible.
He says he loves the country for its everyman values, the importance of family and ancestry and spirituality.
All Whites soccer coach Ricki Herbert is made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.
And it was double delight for the only unbeaten coach at this year's World Cup finals in South Africa to learn that his captain, Ryan Nelsen, had also joined him on the New Year Honours list as an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit.
"It is absolutely fantastic to have got this award - I'm blown away by it really," said Herbert, 49.
"I have been in football for a long time, 45 years been playing or coaching in it, so to have something like this is terrific. I feel very proud."
For Nelsen to have also got an award was significant for the sport.
"I think New Zealand has been recognised on the world stage in front of millions of people."
Legendary golfer Sir Bob Charles led the sporting honours, being appointed to the Order of New Zealand.
The first New Zealand woman to win an Olympic gold, Yvette Corlett, was made a Companion of the NZ Order of Merit for services to athletics.
The coach of the World Cup-winning Black Ferns rugby team, Brian Evans, was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit.
- additional reporting NZPABy Yvonne Tahana Email Yvonne