Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Rugby League: Not a matter if but when Leuluai goes to England

Thomas Leuluai's direct approach is a boon for Shaun Johnson. Photo / Photosport
Thomas Leuluai's direct approach is a boon for Shaun Johnson. Photo / Photosport

Thomas Leuluai will return to England at some stage, and it could happen as early as next year.

The Warriors five-eighth is contracted until the end of 2017, having penned an extended deal with the club in 2014.

But there is no guarantee he will be at Mt Smart next year, although both the club and player insist the decision is still far away.

There has been consistent speculation in the UK media this year that Leuluai will soon be on his way back to the Super League, where he spent eight years with the London Broncos and Wigan between 2004 and 2012.

In his typically honest way, Leuluai admits he will return to England for family reasons one day (his wife Natalie is English) but there isn't a timeframe.

"Eventually, I'll have to go back there," he said. "That was part of the plan with the wife before we came over. We wanted to spend some time with my family and one day we will have time back over there again."

Leuluai has noted the conjecture but remains focused solely on the next few weeks, and trying to revive the Warriors' finals hopes.

"I know there is a lot of talk but nothing has been finalised and, at the moment, I am still here for another two years," said Leuluai. "I enjoy my footy here, I love playing for the club and it is home for me. And I don't look too far ahead. There is a lot to do at the moment."

Warriors recruitment manager Tony Iro has an open mind.

"We haven't had any discussions as yet," said Iro. "If Thomas came to us with a request, we would weigh it up like we do in any situation.

"If there are genuine reasons, we always look at these things.

"Thomas has had a long career and has earned the right to have a decent say in what happens."

But Iro also pointed out that Leuluai was desperate to leave a legacy at the Warriors, and had unfinished business in Auckland. "He wants to add value to the club and leave a mark," said Iro.

"After the injury [last year] he just wants to play football. The club made a big commitment to bring him over and he wants to play finals football, like every other player here."

If Leuluai did go, he would leave a considerable void.

Aside from his utility value, he remains the best halves partner for Shaun Johnson, with his direct approach complementing Johnson well, giving the No7 more time and space.

Leuluai also brings the intangible. He is a hardened professional with a fierce will to win and one of a few who set the defensive benchmark at the club.

"Thomas Leuluai is your man; he's the guy, their No6," former Queensland forward Billy Moore told Fox Sports last week. "He's a balance there. He allows Johnson to do what he does best. He has the gamesmanship to get them around the park."

- Herald on Sunday

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