Powerhouse prop Kylie Leuluai has confirmed 2013 will be his last season at Leeds Rhinos.
The veteran, who will turn 35 in March, is now racing against time to be fit for Rhinos’ Super League opener in 15 days’ time.
Leuluai had planned to retire at the end of 2012, but changed his mind mid-way through the year and signed a new 12-month contract, which expires this autumn.
He spoke after last year’s Grand Final win over Warrington Wolves of playing on, but now confirmed: “This will definitely be my last year.
“We have already made plans to go home. I could play on for another two years otherwise, but you have got to stop some time.
“I have got other goals. I don’t want to be studying when I am 40 and the oldest graduate in the class.
“Also we want the kids to spend time with their grandparents and to get them settled in school. Marley, the oldest, is already saying he doesn’t want to go, so it will be even harder if we stay.”
Auckland-born Leuluai has become one of Leeds’ most successful overseas players since joining the club from Manly Sea Eagles in 2007.
His 189 games for Leeds, all but 31 of them in the starting line-up, includes five winning Grand Finals, four World Club Challenges – winning two of them – and three appearances at Wembley.
By the end of this year he could have played more games for Leeds than any other New Zealand-born import, overtaking Ali Lauitiiti (200) and Bert Cook (201).
And Leuluai is also on course to rise as high as fifth on the club’s all-time list of appearances by an overseas player.
“I want to have a big year,” Leuluai said. “But I am racing against the clock.”
The front-rower was one of only two first-team players – along with winger Ben Jones-Bishop – not to travel to this week’s training camp in Portugal.
“My knees have been bothering me since 2011 and I had some work done on both of them, which ended up being worse than I thought,” he explained.
“That was a three-month injury and I just started running last week.
“I got the knees done and then I ended up getting my thumb fixed too. I tore the ligaments a few years ago and that has come back to haunt me.
“That was a six-week injury and it was six weeks on Monday, so I’m facing a bit of adversity to start the season off.”
Leuluai said his aim is to be ready for the opener against Hull, on February 1.
“I have got a couple of weeks to get myself right,” he reflected.
“I am trying to get fit and stay fit, trying to cater for the injuries.
“I’m doing a lot of work on the cross-trainer and the bike and a lot of swimming, but it’s a different sort of fitness to running.”
Of missing out on the pre-season camp in Portugal, Leuluai admitted: “It’s very disappointing, but that’s the way it goes. I can’t change that.”