Former NZ Kiwis star Issac Luke is mourning the death of father George, who was caught in a slip during Cyclone Gabrielle and died of his injuries in hospital.
A stalwart of the Hawera rugby league community, George Luke and partner Mau Goodman were returning to Hastings from Rotorua, where his son had helped coach Māori All Stars in an NRL pre-season fixture last weekend, when his car was hit by debris on the Taihape-Napier road.
Social media appeals and a search of the area eventually located the pair three days later, and they were flown to Hawke’s Bay Hospital at Hastings, where Luke Sr died.
“Broken,” Issac Luke has posted on Facebook. “My first hero, Hori George Luke… see you soon, dad.
“I love you.”
Luke, 35, played 43 times for the Kiwis, helping them to the 2008 World Cup crown and captaining them on their 2015 tour to England. He amassed 286 NRL first-grade appearances, including 83 for NZ Warriors and 188 for South Sydney Rabbitohs, helping them to the 2014 premiership.
Last weekend, Luke and former Kiwis teammate Adam Blair guided the Māori to defeat against the Indigenous All Stars at Rotorua’s International Stadium, contributing enormously to the cultural spectacle in the build-up.
Luke’s junior club – Hawera Hawks – has also posted its condolences for the passing of its “Totora Tree”.
“No words can express our heartbreak at this sad time,” it said. “You touched the hearts of us all and always encouraged us to keep doing our best.”
“You were always there to guide us… a father, brother, Koro, uncle, mentor and a friend. We are going to miss you dearly.”