Vodafone Warriors great Micheal Luck was back 'home' for what turned into an extra-special visit last week.
The previous fortnight had been absolutely unforgettable after he’d revelled in the celebrations as the North Queensland Cowboys basked in their maiden NRL premiership success.
Last week he was back for a planned trip to Auckland - his other 'home' - with wife Tonilee and their New Zealand-born son Murphy to catch up with friends and to make a sentimental return to the Vodafone Warriors.
The 33-year-old, now with the Cowboys as their elite pathways manager, wound up his playing career with his 150th appearance for the club - and his 226th match overall - when he lined up against the Canberra Raiders in the Vodafone Warriors' last game of the 2012 season.
Across seven seasons 'Lucky' - or 'Milk' as he was also known - established himself as one of the club's most courageous players, earning the utmost respect of every player he went into battle with. There were plenty of cuts, blood and stitches as well as some injuries along the way but above all, ample heart, as Luck pushed himself fearlessly for the Vodafone Warriors' cause.
His contribution resulted in him being ranked among a group of five elite players who best exemplified and shaped the club's present values - grounded, courageous, selfless, uncompromising and passionate.
Incoming managing director Jim Doyle sampled a cross section of current and former players and staff, members, sponsors, celebrities and media to find out which five players personified the qualities the Vodafone Warriors stood for.
Five names consistently featured with Luck the only Australian joining former Kiwi internationals Stacey Jones and Ruben Wiki plus current Kiwis Simon Mannering and Manu Vatuvei. Their images feature powerfully in the Vodafone Warriors' dressing room, used to reinforce the values and to pay tribute to their importance to the club's fabric.
Luck, the only Australian player to feature in 150 games or more for the club, first saw the new-look dressing room when he visited the team after the final home game of the season against the Cowboys at Mount Smart Stadium in August (it was also the traditional old boys' day).
This time he had the chance to take it all in as well as the rest of the club’s facilities. He was suitably impressed if not a little overcome when he stood in the dressing room.
Unbeknown to him, the casual visit was to become an occasion when Doyle and all staff in the building assembled in the dressing room.
During the course of the season, the Vodafone Warriors ran a Facebook poll for fans to pick the People’s Choice 20th Anniversary Team, Luck chosen in his customary spot at loose forward. Many of the Auckland-based players voted in were presented with plaques at the Vodafone Warriors’ 21st Annual Awards at the SKYCITY Convention Centre but Luck couldn't make the event then.
So on his visit last week the chance was taken to make his plaque presentation just a little bit different by making it in front of staff, including Wiki and others who were at the club during Luck's career.
With emotion coming through, Luck spoke of what the Vodafone Warriors meant to him and how humbled he was to be honoured.