Covell's shock at NSW call-up
He'd hung up the boots and didn't even realise that he qualified but when the coach of the New South Wales Tertiary team called Luke Covell to see if he'd have one more run around, the former Kiwi winger just couldn't say no.
Enrolled in TAFE as he completes his plumbing apprenticeship, Covell is coach Drew Dalton's star inclusion for the annual clash with Queensland Universities that will serve as a curtain-raiser for the Broncos-Titans clash at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.
A NSW Residents representative in 2004, Covell played for Country Origin in 2005 and his one Test for New Zealand in 2007 and despite retiring from the NRL in 2010, spent the next three years playing for the Murwillumbah Mustangs in the Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League competition.
There was the chance to end his career covered in grand final glory but the Mustangs went down to the Ballina Seagulls in the 2013 decider, leaving Covell with one last itch to scratch.
"A really good mate of mine who I played with at Wests, Drew Dalton, he's the coach of the side and he rang up and said, 'Are you still going to TAFE?'" Covell tells NRL.com. "I said, 'Yeah, still going to TAFE,' and he told me about it and I thought it was a good opportunity; any representative jumper is always good to be a part of.
"I knew Drew had played in the Australian team before and travelled overseas so I knew it was there but I didn't realise going to TAFE qualified, but he obviously did and is why he gave me the call."
Covell may be the most high-profile name running around from 3pm on Friday but he's certainly not the only one with strong rugby league credentials.
Jared Allen is a member of the Queensland team and is the nephew of former Broncos and Maroons prop Gavin Allen and is one of seven players representing the Maroons currently playing in the Intrust Super Cup.
Before getting a start in the NRL with the Titans Anthony Don represented the Australian Universities team on tours to South Africa and England and France and said they were a great mix of good times and hard training.
"When we trained it was really serious because we were representing Australia for unis so we were switched on but after training or the next couple of nights after a game we'd go out and have a few beers at different locations," Don said.
"It was a great bunch of blokes, all young and all uni students so it was really good times."
An Australian Universities team will be selected from this fixture to tour Fiji later this year but Covell is unsure that, if selected, whether his ongoing study and work commitments will allow him to travel.
And as for whether he will play again next year, Covell said that he could find himself amidst another uproar surrounding representative eligibility.
"I might be eligible for Queensland next year because I'll probably be changing over to Queensland TAFE to do my plumbing license, so I could become eligible to play for Queensland," said the veteran of 153 NRL games.
"I don't think I could do it."
Queensland Universities squad: Jared Allen (James Cook University), Phil Anzelotti (Griffith University), Stephen Coombe (Queensland University of Technology), Joshua Damen (University of Queensland), Travis Drury (GU), Nicholas Durante (JCU), Sam Foster (QUT), Herschel Gideon (GU), Tom Hancock (JCU), Adam Jeffery (QUT), Zach Koitka (QUT), Jacob Ling (Southern Cross University), Jono Miliszewski (QUT), Tom Murray (QUT), Nathan Norford (JCU), Benjamin Shea (GU), Conner Toia (GU), Rhett Webster (UQ).
NSW Tertiaries squad: Mohammed Alhaje, Scott Bunch, Cameron Copeland, Luke Covell, David Fauonuku, Solomone Foster, Michael Gavan, Mitchell Henderson, Volkan Sik, Hillal Kara-Ali, Jesse Maxwell, Michael Pearsall, Jonny Rowe, Pio Sofa, Tyson Tietie, Corey Walpole, Matt Waugh, Chris Williamson.