David Skipwith is the Herald's rugby league reporter

NRL: Leuluai leaving Warriors with no regrets

Thomas Leuluai of the Warriors in action during the round 17 NRL match against the Titans. Photo / Getty
Thomas Leuluai of the Warriors in action during the round 17 NRL match against the Titans. Photo / Getty

Departing five-eighth Thomas Leuluai is sad to be leaving the Warriors but says the time has come to put family first after years of making football his first priority.

Leuluai will exit the Warriors at the end of the NRL season after being granted a release from the final year of his contract on compassionate grounds to allow him and his English-born wife Natalie and baby daughter to return to the United Kingdom.

The 31-year-old has re-signed with his former Super League club Wigan on a deal that will see him take up an assistant coaching position when he finally hangs his boots up.

With his future settled, he remains determined to finish his time at Mt Smart Stadium on the right note and exit the NRL with no regrets.

"When you're younger your decisions are all about yourself but as you get a family and you get older your decisions are about your family," explained Leuluai.

"It's a great relief for my wife and myself. It was always our plan to go back at some point so just with having a baby I thought it was time.

"Having that sorted has really let me focus on finishing on the right note and it's given me great motivation to make sure we kick-on and finish the year properly."

Leuluai is grateful for the sacrifices Natalie has made since the couple moved to Auckland in 2013, allowing him to rejoin the club he started his career at as an 18-year-old a decade earlier.

Eight seasons playing in the northern hemisphere gave him a fresh outlook on life and football, but a burning desire to return to finish some unfinished business in the NRL could not be ignored.

"I really wanted to come back and play some good football back here," he said. "I was hampered by injury a bit but when I've been right I've been quite happy and I've enjoyed playing back in the NRL.

"I'm looking forward to getting back to Wigan and finishing at a club that has a great history and I have a lot of great friends there and I'm really happy to be going back there.

"I would love to stay on but I know this is the right decision for her and us and our future."

With the Warriors sitting in seventh spot on the premiership ladder and eight rounds remaining in the regular season, Leuluai describes an unspoken commitment among the players to securing a finals berth for the first time since 2011.

"There's been no talk yet but deep down everyone knows. Last year, we fell away and the couple years before that we really wobbled at this stage of the season.

"But it's different this year, there's a different feel. It's not like it was a couple of years ago.

"We have a different outlook and are playing with a lot more confidence and really working hard for each other. If we keep going along those lines we'll give ourselves a chance."

- NZ Herald

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