St George Illawarra recruit Issac Luke is aiming to reach the milestone of 300 NRL games and regain his New Zealand Test jersey but the uncertainly surrounding his future coupled with an interest in reality TV show The Block has inspired him to seek a building apprenticeship.
With his career in limbo until Dragons coach Paul McGregor and former South Sydney team-mate Cameron McInnes reached out to him about moving across the Tasman, Luke's daily routine revolved around caring for his children, house work and playing touch football with his mates.
Having been advised by the Warriors during last season that the club would not be offering him a new deal for 2020, he was forced to consider the realities of life after football and began studying in Auckland.
The 32-year-old intends to continue working towards becoming a builder while living in Wollongong and sharing the hooking duties with McInnes, whom he mentored at the Rabbitohs and now compares to former NSW captain Danny Buderus.
Luke has 300-game target in mind
It's a role Luke has been only too happy to perform with the likes of Brandon Smith for the Kiwis, Nathaniel Roache at the Warriors and any hooker who came through the ranks at Souths while he was there, including Api Koroisau, Nathan Peats, James Segayaro and McInnes.
"When I debuted I knew straight away that part of my job was to give back," Luke said. "Cam was probably the first one, he barely spoke and I noticed it straight away.
"I was like that when I was younger – I was standoffish and worried about my own game – but I opened him up and helped him to express himself. Now he speaks really clearly, he knows what he wants and he is straight up about it. If he doesn't like something he will just tell you.
"We had a fair few good hookers come out of South Sydney and there is a good young fellow here, Joe Lovodua, who I'm going to try and nurture as well. My job in the next couple of years before I hang up the boots is to give my knowledge down to the kids."
Luke and McInnes last played together in 2015 but the pair have remained in close contact and the 43-Test veteran said he was happy to play the role of deputy to the likely St George Illawarra captain in 2020.
"I don't mind, I am just happy to be playing somewhere," Luke said. "There was a point during the whole process where I was waking up every morning, getting the kids ready for school and then taking them to school, I'd go home and clean the house or clean around the house and I wasn't really sure what was going on.
"I guess it was a little insight into what life after footy is going to be like. I'd train with my wife three times a week, play touch with my mates most nights and go to the kids' sports. It was pretty good but it doesn't pay the bills."
McInnes welcomes Luke reunion
The Kiwis veteran had already spoken with Warriors welfare manager Jerry Seu Seu about his future and was interested in building as he and his wife Mickayela are avid fans of The Block.
"We watch The Block all the time and I said 'what would you do if we were on that' but she said 'you wouldn't last because I'd be barking orders at you all the time'," Luke said.
"It's a different world but I don't mind it. I have 75 units of theory and the rest is on-site so I look forward to that. I just want to get to know all the tools and what's what first and then I look forward to going on-site.
"Last year  was a really good year for me but I thought I can't play the sport forever so to have something there for me to work towards it pretty good."
In the meantime, Luke is hoping to play well enough to earn an extension on his one-year deal with the Dragons or convince another club to sign him as he looks to build on his 272 NRL appearances with the Rabbitohs and Warriors.
The Kiwi veteran, who also hopes to continue his Test career, had interest from other clubs but after looking at St George Illawarra's roster Luke wondered how the Dragons finished 15th last season, while he was also keen to play with McInnes.
"Throughout the years Cam has always been saying 'hopefully we can get another game together' and he managed to help me get over here," Luke said.
"He is like my little brother, I used to give him a kiss all the time so it's great to see him grow over the years.
"Cam is just a stock solid hooker like Danny Buderus, he is a hard nut, he does his job and doesn't fuss, doesn't complain and just gets on with. We just feed off each other and I am looking forward to playing with him again."