When Ruben Wiki heard he was going to be inducted into the NRL Hall of Fame, he admits there was some disbelief.
Wiki and long time Kiwis teammate Stacey Jones were confirmed on Monday as the latest entries into the NRL's prestigious group, two of the four players to enter the Hall this year.
They become just the second and third New Zealanders to be included, after former North Sydney Bears and Kiwis great Mark Graham was inducted last year.
Wiki had been initially proud to be part of the 25 nominees on the short list for this year, so to make the final cut was head-spinning stuff.
"We are still trying to get our head around it," Wiki told D'Arcy Waldegrave on Radio Sport. "Texting each other... 'is this real?'. But we are pretty blessed. To be in that calibre of elite players is just crazy."
Receiving the honour alongside his great mate Jones made the accolade even more special, as the duo represented the Kiwis for 12 years as teammates, and have also worked together at the Warriors for much of this decade.
"I'm really privileged to be sharing the stage with him," said Wiki of Jones, who played 261 NRL games and 46 tests. "He is the greatest for the Warriors and I'm so proud of him."
Wiki said a love of the game has kept him in the sport, along with the drive to see young players come through and achieve more than he did.
Stacey Jones and Ruben Wiki in 2008. Photo / Photosport
Wiki came from a modest background in South Auckland, and recalls playing in bare feet as a six-year-old, and trying to earn some extra pocket money by scoring a few tries.
Despite his long list of achievements (a record 55 tests for the Kiwis and 311 NRL games, the most by a New Zealander) Wiki remains remarkably humble.
"My career showed that dreams do come true if you work hard enough," said Wiki. "I was one of those guys, I didn't have talent but I liked to do what I could for the team and put my best foot forward, every training session, every game.
"I wanted to do everything possible for my team, didn't matter which team, whether it was the [Otara] Scorpions, [Otahuhu] Leopards, Auckland, Raiders, Warriors or the Kiwis. When I retired at 35 I was still having fun. To do it on the world stage was a bonus."
Aside from his legendary commitment to physical fitness and conditioning, Wiki also attributes his longevity in the sport to staying grounded, and following the advice of long time Raiders mentor Tim Sheens.
"He told us to put things outside the league circle, have friends outside the circle," said Wiki. "I still rub shoulders with my mates and the guys I grew up with."
Warriors coach Stephen Kearney, who played with and against both Jones and Wiki, described them as a unique combination.
"Ruben got everything out of himself, an absolute professional." said Kearney. "He was a fierce competitor, a great leader and a wonderful teammate."
"Stacey was a great competitor too and a lot quicker and stronger than people gave him credit for. He also had a natural instinct for the game and was ahead of his time in that regard."
The NRL Hall of Fame spans 110 years of league, and includes the elite competitions in England and Australia, as well as test matches, and currently has 106 members. The induction ceremony will be held in Sydney on Wednesday night.