Lewis's milestone a long time coming
In a perfect world where injuries weren't a factor in sport, Cronulla's milestone man Luke Lewis would be the fourth most-capped player in Australian rugby league history if not for his wretched run with injury and illness.
Ahead of his 250th NRL game this weekend in Cronulla's local derby with the Dragons, it's astounding to think what Lewis has had to overcome to reach such a milestone having missed a total of 90 games throughout his 15-year career.
Ideally, the 31-year-old could very well be playing his 340th game on Sunday afternoon leaving him just behind Darren Lockyer, Terry Lamb and Steve Menzies on the all-time first grade appearances list.
However since his NRL debut back in Round 24, 2001, with the Panthers, Lewis has had to overcome hamstring, calf, knee and finger injuries.
That's not to mention his tragic thyroid cancer diagnosis back in 2012, a full shoulder reconstruction after colliding with on-field signage during the 2013 World Cup and his recent troubles with unwanted hormones and arthritis.
Missing the first two games of this season as he searched for the right balance with his rheumatoid arthritis medication, Lewis is beyond confident in the shape his body is in currently.
"I'm pretty stoked about [the 250th] actually. I never really expected to make it this far," Lewis said.
"I was very excited to play my first first grade game and never really expected to play 50 or 100 so to be running out to play my 250th, it's pretty exciting.
"I'm feeling really good at the moment, my knee has been outstanding and we're definitely on top of it now so everything has been flying. Touch wood and fingers crossed it stays that way."
Funnily enough though, if it weren't for his broken finger in a trial playing for Penrith back in 2008, Lewis's career may not have taken off the way it did.
Since that fateful injury where he was shifted to the back row once fit, while also remaining competent anywhere in the backline, Lewis debuted for his first of 16 Tests for Australia in 2009 while his Origin career was relaunched in the same year – five years after his debut.
"I always say when I snapped my finger back then it was always a little bit of a blessing," Lewis said.
"I was playing in the centres and had to sit out for six weeks with it. But when I came back I played in the middle and managed players' player and I thought 'I really enjoyed that'.
"[Former Panthers coach] Matty Elliott kept me there from then and I started to enjoy my footy a lot more which was great."
Eyeing off the exclusive 300 club in the seasons ahead, Lewis said with his body feeling the way it is he is hoping to play an extra year on top of his existing contract which finishes at the end of the 2016 season.
"Since we have managed to get on top of everything my body feels really good. Obviously not playing Origin has helped my body and I'm just really enjoying my footy here at the Sharkies," Lewis said.
"I really enjoy the blokes we have got, I enjoy coming to training every day. If I'm feeling like am now in future seasons then I'd love to run around for two more years after this."
Working in his favour too is the fact his coach Shane Flanagan believes Lewis has only really bought into being a leader of the club in the last year or two.
Having coached the former "wiry winger" back in 2002 in the Junior Kangaroos –alongside names like Thurston, Smith, Watmough and Bird – Flanagan was more than complimentary towards Lewis's impending achievement.
"He has been in really good form to boot, so it's really pleasing for him. He's played nearly every position but in the front row so he's had a great career and he still has a lot of footy in front of him," Flanagan told NRL.com.
"He's only really built into being a leader particularly since he's been at our club, he needed to take a senior leadership role. Playing Origin and for his country, he needed to show those qualities of leadership in club land.
"Just because players are older we all think they are leaders, he's probably needed to think about that role and learn how to do that and he has over the last 12 months which is a credit to him."