Luke dedicates 200th game to his people
On Saturday afternoon at Hunter Stadium Issac Luke will become the fifth member of the current Warriors squad to crack 200 NRL Telstra Premiership games, but he says the milestone will be more about his family than him.
Now in his 10th season as a first-grade player, Luke will clock up the double century playing for the club where he first trialled as a 15-year-old.
His time with the Warriors was short lived back then, with Luke heading over to the Bulldogs before breaking through at South Sydney, where he would go on to become a star for the Kiwis and the most consistent challenger to Cameron Smith's mantle as the world's best hooker.
This weekend presents another opportunity to pause and appreciate the longevity and evolution of the kid from Hawera.
"It's definitely a great achievement for myself and my family, and obviously my people," Luke said ahead of joining Ryan Hoffman, Simon Mannering, Jacob Lillyman and Manu Vatuvei in the 200-game club.
"[Growing up] I just remember running around with my two brothers, I do admit that my older brother was probably the better of us then, but to be able to follow in his shadow… to have great aspirations like my big bro, and to be able to push myself to the NRL and to represent them is truly awesome.
"I always said that I was going to come home, I just didn't know when.
"Now I'm here there's nothing I would change about that either.
"But I don't want too much limelight, I just want to be able to focus on this game, but I'm definitely proud of my family and to be able to represent them in this great achievement and be able to say I played 200 games."
For prop Ben Matulino, who will pack down next to Luke in the starting front-row this week, it's a pleasing moment to see his 'cheeky' former schoolmate achieve the feat.
The pair, who would go on to become teammates in both the international and club arena, attended St Bernard's College – a school in Wellington which includes former NRL player Marvin Karawana and current Shark Sam Tagataese among their alumni – for a short time together in the early 2000s.
"It's been good to see him come a long way, I went to school with him for a couple of years and it's awesome to see how far he has come; he has worked pretty hard," Matulino said.
"I think I was 13 and he was 15 and we were the only ones who didn't play rugby at lunch time, the boys used to play concrete rugby at school but me and him would just be playing handball.
"He was just how he is now… he still hasn't changed."
Aside from achieving his personal milestone, 29-year-old Luke said he was looking forward to facing off with Knights rake Danny Levi, the player many consider to be the heir apparent to Luke as the long-term No.9 for the Kiwis.
"He is going well, Danny… there is a little group of them [the next generation of Kiwi hookers], I think Kodi [Nikorima] and Manaia Cherrington are part of that group as well.
"I remember back when I was coming up against the Kiwi hookers and it was awesome to be able to play against someone you looked up to."