His National Rugby League career over, New Zealand great Ruben Wiki is now looking forward to his final match on home soil when he leads the All Golds against New Zealand Maori in New Plymouth on October 12.
Wiki, 35, played his 87th and last game for the New Zealand Warriors in their NRL preliminary final 6-32 loss to Manly in Sydney on Saturday.
It ended a first-grade career which tallied 312 appearances, including 225 for Canberra.
Since retiring as a Kiwis international in 2006 after a world record 55 tests, Wiki has devoted the last two seasons to his club except a one-off appearance for the All Golds in Warrington last year.
While the New Plymouth game will help the Kiwis in their preparation for the World Cup starting in Sydney next month, it primarily serves as an opportunity for the New Zealand Rugby League to give one of its legends a swansong.
“It’s a chance to play my last game in New Zealand and also to be involved in helping the Kiwis in their build-up for the World Cup,” Wiki said.
“It’s special coming back to New Plymouth. That’s where I played my very first game for the Warriors when we had a trial there against Parramatta in 2005 so it’s nice to be able to play my last game in New Zealand at the same ground.”
New Zealand Rugby League chairman Ray Haffenden said Wiki deserved the best send-off possible.
“Ruben has made an incredible contribution to the game both at test level and in the NRL,” he said.
“It’s impossible to say enough about what he has done but we want to do the best we can to thank him.
“That’s what this is all about, having Ruben playing for the All Golds, taking the game to New Plymouth and giving fans in the provinces a chance to farewell him live.”
Wiki said while he was yet to reveal his plans for the future, playing in the English Super League was an option.
However, he said talk that had emerged about him coming out of retirement to play for the Kiwis at the World Cup was well wide of the mark.
“That won’t be happening. I’ll be at the World Cup with the Kiwis but I’ll be in a coloured shirt, not the Kiwi jersey,” he said of his role on the Kiwis’ football staff.
Coaching the All Golds will be Kiwi coach Stephen Kearney while Frank Endacott, who guided the Kiwis from 1994-2000, is the team’s technical adviser.
Former NRL player Luke Goodwin, who played for New Zealand Maori at the 2000 World Cup, is coaching the Maori side with ex-Kiwi Richie Blackmore as assistant.