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Issac Luke is on the verge of making a shock comeback with the Māori side in next month’s Harvey Norman NRL All Stars, which would see him take the field on the one-year anniversary of his father’s passing.

Despite not playing in the NRL since 2020, the 36-year-old hooker has just completed a full pre-season with Queensland Cup side Souths Logan, after he returned with them for the back end of last season and appeared in three games.

Luke had just arrived home from his week as an assistant coach with the Māori All Stars last February when he found out his dad, George, had passed away following a slip that occurred during Cyclone Gabrielle in New Zealand.

In the months which followed, Luke decided to give top-level football another go as a way to honour George and in recent times he’s been in regular contact with new Māori coach Adam Blair about a comeback for the event in Townsville on February 16.

“If I was to get the chance, I’d be playing for my dad. The game falls on the day he died last year,” Luke told

“I am the second oldest of his children and I spoke to my dad every week, so not being able to have that, it’s tough.

“If I do get the green light [to play] I don’t know how I will handle the occasion… but I am blessed even to be considered.

“[Physically] I’ll be good, I have got through the pre-season with the Magpies (Souths Logan) and have passed everything I needed to.”

Luke descends from the Ngāruahine iwi in southern Taranaki and previously represented the Māori in 2020 and 2021, at the back end of his 286-game NRL career.

Having played numerous Tests alongside him for the Kiwis, before later linking up with him at the Warriors and with the Māori All Stars, Blair knows better than most what Luke can do for a team.

“’Bully’ [Luke] brings players together; he carries a lot of mana from his experience and what he has done in the game,” Blair told

“He’s someone that wears his heart on his sleeve and understands how much it means to be Māori and what this represents.

“To have someone like him around the camp, whether that be as a player or staff, is invaluable to the group.

“He will never let you down, but he will know if he is ready or not.”

After watching Luke progress throughout the pre-season, Souths Logan coach Karmichael Hunt believes the former Kiwi international still has what it takes to play at an elite level, despite his 37th birthday coming up this May.

“No doubt, if he was given an opportunity, he would be able to still do a job at that level,” Hunt told

“You don’t lose your footy nous and ability to think your way through a contest and Bully still picks our defence apart at training; he is as crafty as can be with the ball.

“He’s in really good condition…. he’s had a full pre-season and is looking really good.”

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