At the age of 42, Carlos Spencer is poised for a cameo-style return for the Blues early next year but he feels like he's never been away.
Whether living in England, South Africa or Japan since his last game for the Blues in 2005, Spencer, who played 35 tests for the All Blacks and nearly 100 games for both the Blues and Auckland, has always kept an eye on a franchise he believes, like most observers, has consistently underperformed, and has always hoped "this is going to be their year".
Significantly, the Blues have struggled to develop or attract a first-five anywhere near Spencer's calibre in the 12 years since his departure, and his role at the Brisbane Global 10s tournament on February 9 and 10 next year will be as a "wildcard", an apt description of Spencer in his prime for he would do things on the field at the top level that few would consider let alone be capable of.
It remains to be seen how many minutes he will play in the heat of a Queensland summer at Suncorp Stadium, but his fitness gained over the past few months in training for the gruelling eight-day mountain bike race The Cape Epic in Cape Town (he used to race BMX bikes and is also a dab hand at motocross) has given him the confidence to give it a go.
He now spends his time between Hamilton and Japan, where he coaches the Sannix Blues, so he is still involved in rugby after his six years of coaching in South Africa came to an end in 2015 when he left the Kings.
Certainly, he has retained his kicking touch - a "banana" kick through the goalposts from a very narrow angle filmed for a promotion was done on only two takes, and it's that competitive instinct which he believes will drive him for the challenges ahead - both on the rugby field and on the bike.
"To get the opportunity to be involved with the franchise again is awesome and that's the main reason I'm doing this," Spencer told the Herald. "I had a couple of other things on that I had already committed to but I managed to get out of them and commit to playing in the 10s - purely because I wanted to get back involved and pull that jersey on again.
"It's that ability to take contact again, which I haven't done for a while, that's going to be the toughest part - getting the body ready to take the knocks again."
Asked about the Blues, an outfit he still feels passionate about, he said: "I watch them and think 'this year is going to be the year'.
"The team they've always had on paper and the talent - they've got the team to do it, but unfortunately, you don't play on a piece of paper. It's been frustrating the last few years for me, and disappointing because you have so much passion for the club because of its history and what it's achieved."
There is no escaping the No10 factor at the Blues, and the fact that they haven't had one of sufficient quality or experience to drive them to a fourth title. Spencer was involved in all three in 1996, 1997 and 2003.
Stephen Perofeta and Bryn Gatland will be given their opportunities in the No10 jersey next year and Spencer has heard good things about both.
"Obviously the way things have gone - they've been searching for a No10 for a number of years so I suppose there's a little bit of added pressure on them which doesn't help," Spencer said.
"Hopefully next year they can do the job for them."
Spencer is cultivating a No10 too - son Payton, 13, who has represented Waikato at age group level, and has ability at both rugby and cricket. He recently hit 144 in a trial in Auckland, and it's cricket that Payton might decide on as he continues to develop.
"He's got to stop growing, mate," Spencer said. "I'm trying to get him to grow out instead of growing up otherwise he will end up in the forwards."