Issac Luke is saying goodbye to rugby league.
The Kiwis great and Rabbitohs legend has decided to hang up his boots, after a career where he achieved almost everything possible.
League has been his entire life since he was a teenager when he left Taranaki to chase his NRL dreams in Sydney, but walking away won't be difficult.
"My goal was to give kids from where I came from pathways," Luke tells the Herald. "I wasn't big, or tall, but I had a bit of mongrel and skill.
"For someone from Hawera, even getting one [NRL] game was special. So getting to 286 and 43 tests, I am pretty content with what I have done.
"I'm happy to leave the game, moving on to the next phase of my life and knowing I have left a mark in the NRL."
Luke was a unique talent.
He had rough edges but was a wonderful player. Luke is probably the best Kiwis hooker in history (Brandon Smith may take that mantle, but not yet) and was a dominant No 9 in the NRL.
He was a fearless competitor, who helped to change the sport with his dummy half running game, and at times even managed to overshadow Cameron Smith at his peak.
Luke hasn't had the farewell he perhaps deserved, playing for Wynnum Manly, the Broncos feeder club, in the latter half of this season, but that won't detract from his legacy.
He was part of a golden period for the Kiwis, with the 2008 World Cup victory and the 2010 and 2014 Four Nations triumphs. Luke was also a key figure in the Rabbitohs revival, which culminated in the 2014 grand final win, and he scored 50 tries and kicked 205 goals across his NRL career.
"If I was being picky, there are two things I wanted to achieve; get that milestone of 300 and go to the Dally M's and bring something home," says the 34-year-old.
"But I won an NRL premiership, a World Club Challenge, the NRL Nines, the Four Nations and a World Cup. I think I achieved enough."
Luke rates Cameron Smith as his toughest foe and was proud to be recognised as the international hooker of the year (ahead of Smith) in 2013.
Jonathan Thurston was the toughest competitor – "by a country mile" - and Sam Burgess his best teammate.
"It was uncanny, from the first game I looked at him and he just knew what I was going to do," says Luke. "From then on, every time I moved, he moved."
Luke made his debut in 2007 against the Melbourne Storm.
"They got a tip during the week, 'a young fella named Issac Luke was going to be debuting - he can't tackle so run at him'. They sent all their forwards at me; I put Jeff Lima on his arse twice and Ben Cross once."
Luke was Souths' first choice rake before his 20th birthday and had some stunning seasons, including the nine-try 2010 campaign. The Rabbitohs reached consecutive preliminary finals in 2012 and 2013, before the 2014 breakthrough, though Luke was infamously suspended from the decider.
"When I heard 'guilty' my focus went on helping Api [Koroisau] get ready," says Luke. "But I rang my dad and once I heard his voice I broke down. That was what we always dreamed about, one of his kids, or even someone from Taranaki….so to make it that far and not get to play was hard.
"It was tough, definitely tough. People even say today, I can't believe you missed out on the grand final. But we won, so I'm all good with that."
Luke will never forget the 2008 World Cup final, when the Kiwis shocked Australia, who had Billy Slater, Greg Inglis, Israel Folau, Darren Lockyer, Johnathan Thurston and Smith, 34-20 at Suncorp Stadium.
"In 2005 I was playing Junior Kiwis with Sam Rapira, Greg Eastwood and Sika Manu and that night we were all the [interchange] bench," says Luke. "I was 21 and we beat possibly the best Kangaroos team they have ever assembled."
The 2014 Four Nations campaign was also special, as was captaining the Kiwis in 2015 and 2018.
Luke doesn't have many regrets but admits his Warriors spell (2016-2019) was a missed opportunity.
"I wish I could do it again, especially those first two years," says Luke. "I needed to be heaps better and I wasn't. I admit that. It took until 2018 to actually see what I could produce for them. I definitely didn't play up to what I was expected to play."
That 2018 season – especially the early streak – and the haka for Roger Tuivasa-Sheck at the Dally M awards are his favourite Warriors memories.
Luke had been mulling retirement at the end of 2020, before Broncos coach Kevin Walters called, saying they would need some experience. Luke had an injury-interrupted pre-season, then couldn't force his way into the team.
"I would speak to the coach, he would say 'we need you' but I couldn't jag a game."
Luke was disenchanted, but "fell in love with the game again" playing for Wynnum Manly, who face a qualifying final game against Burleigh Bears on Sunday.
The Seagulls have a storied history, with past players including Wally Lewis, Gene Miles and Bob Lindner, and won the last of their six Queensland Cup premierships in 2012.
"I've loved it," says Luke. "Let's see how far we can go."
Luke will stay close to the game in retirement, especially mentoring his kids.
His eldest son Adaquix (14) is a fullback at the Broncos academy, while Cruz (13) is with the Panthers and daughter Ava (11) has gained a league scholarship to Marsden State High, south of Brisbane. Frankie (5) and Remi (3) might be future prospects.
"I'll be in that space where I can help, coach my kids or be a part of a team that needs my knowledge," says Luke, who is happily settled in Brisbane, where his wife's family are based.
Luke will always be a special story, from an unlikely background to the top of his sport.
"When I was growing up I had a lot of mates who were so talented but they were 'them', smoking in the in-goal, then get on the field and be man of the match," says Luke. "What brought me to where I am is that I didn't want to be like them…I pushed myself in different areas.
"My Dad always told me when I was little it's either you or them...that still rings in my ears. Sometimes I would get run over but I would get back up and go looking for you."
Rabbitohs (2007-2015) - 188 NRL games
Warriors (2016-2019) - 83 NRL games
Dragons (2020) - 3 NRL games
Broncos (2020) - 12 NRL games
NRL record: 286 games, 50 tries, 205 goals.
Kiwis debut: v Australia, 2008.
Kiwis record: 43 tests, 5 tries, 22 goals.