NRL: Leuluai could be back in black

By Kris Shannon

His move back to the Warriors may not be off to the best of starts, but Thomas Leuluai's decision to head home can only aid his international prospects. Photo / Getty Images.
His move back to the Warriors may not be off to the best of starts, but Thomas Leuluai's decision to head home can only aid his international prospects. Photo / Getty Images.

His move back to the Warriors may not be off to the best of starts, but Thomas Leuluai's decision to head home can only aid his international prospects.

Leuluai last played for the Kiwis in 2011 and, although he has made an underwhelming start to life at the Warriors, he may be in line for a recall for this month's Anzac test against Australia.

The 27-year-old enjoyed his best performance in his second stint at the club during the Warriors' slump-busting win over North Queensland on Monday, with his defence and organisational abilities possibly catching the eye of Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney.

New Zealand's halves positions are well and truly occupied by Benji Marshall and Kieran Foran, while Isaac Luke will play hooker, but there is a vacancy to back up that trio on the bench. Kearney tried Elijah Taylor in the utility position last year but experienced limited success, giving Leuluai the chance to restart his international career.

Leuluai has played 30 times for the Kiwis but, having spent the last eight seasons in the English Super League, he has largely dropped out of consideration for recent matches due to the difficulty of travelling back from the United Kingdom.

Now he is located a lot closer to home, Leuluai's chances of pulling on the black jumper would have immeasurably improved, though the player isn't ready to celebrate a recall.

"I don't really listen to it too much,'' he said of talk of a return to the international scene. "I know Stephen Kearney quite well and he's had a talk to me.

"I have another big job here coming back to a new club and getting back into the NRL - that's enough to handle. I don't really think about the Kiwis too much.''

Leuluai couldn't have helped but think about the national side when he was involved in a 32-man camp in Sydney in February. He said it was exciting to be back in that environment but he wasn't reading too much into the invitation.

"I will be honest with you, I didn't really think about it too much. It might sound a bit stupid or weird but I have a big enough job back here trying to get used to the NRL and the team and helping the warriors.''

There are, of course, considerable club commitments for the Warriors' international contingent to worry about, perhaps even more so now they earned their first win of the new NRL season.

Although breaking through would have brought immense relief to all those involved at Mt Smart, the challenge now is to repeat the dogged performance against the Cowboys when they host the table-topping Rabbitohs on Sunday.

"It was a better game for us and there was a lot more cohesion and timing,'' Leuluai said of last week's win. "Souths will be a really good test for us. But, if we ever wanted to back up a performance, it's good to come up against a team like that.''

Leuluai also has the personal challenge of repeating his own improved performance. He made little impact in his first three games with the Warriors but, with Nathan Friend's presence on the park giving the side fluency and direction, he was much better against the Cowboys.

It is understandable that a player who has spent so long away from the NRL will take some time to adjust, and that is what Leuluai has found now he's back at his first club.

"The speed of the game and defences are better organised,'' he said. "They are harder to crack. It means you need a bit more patience, which showed in the weekend.''

- APNZ

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf02 at 21 Dec 2014 07:51:09 Processing Time: 413ms