RETIRING LEGEND Kylie Leuluai has revealed he owes his time at Leeds Rhinos to his wife.
Leuluai – the most successful import in the club’s history – will play his last competitive game tomorrow, when Rhinos face Wigan Warriors in the First Utility Super League Grand Final.
And looking back on nine seasons at Rhinos, which have brought him 11 trophy wins, Leuluai admitted: “If it wasn’t for my wife, Lebron, I wouldn’t be here.”
Said the New Zealand-born, former Samoa international: “This is the fourth time I’ve retired.
“The first time was back when I was at Parramatta in 2003.
“I’d had loads of injuries and I’d had enough of the mental challenge of trying to get myself right. My wife was the one who told me to carry on and keep striving for what I’ve wanted since I was eight years old.
“She’s the reason I’ve carried on the last three years as well – and she is also the reason why I am quitting this year!
“She says ‘that’s enough’, but if it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be here. I am very grateful. She has been a great support for me.
“When I decided to come here, it was one of the best decisions I’ve made. I didn’t think it was at the time – because it was miserable when we touched down in Manchester at 7 o’clock in the morning.
“But we’ve had some great times and met some great people, great memories that will stay with me forever.”
Despite his past changes of mind, Leuluai, 37, is adamant his career really is coming to an end now.
“Definitely,” he said. “It’s not my body, it’s everything really. But I think the main thing is my children, giving my time to my family on the weekends.
“I want to be able to support them in what they endeavour, in their schooling and their education.
“When you are playing you are mentally and physically drained for the weekend. So when the children are at school all week, that’s when they are working hard.
“The weekends is when they get a break and it’s when they need your time and energy. I only have three hours’ sleep after a game, so I am physically tired.
“I am like that until Monday when I am up and charging again, but then they are back at school. That is one of the main reasons.”
Leuluai made his debut in February, 2007 and has featured in five Grand Final victories, two Challenge Cup and World Club Challenge triumphs and has lifted the league league’s shield twice.
Another winner’s ring tomorrow would be the ideal way to bow out and he said: “It is a great way to finish just getting there.
“We have won the league leaders’ and the Challenge Cup and got to Old Trafford and we get to play in the Super League Grand Final, for the trophy.
“It will be tough. They are a big team Wigan and very successful and they’ve been in great form for the last two months, I would say.
“It is going to be a big game and we need to be ready.”
Whatever happens in Leuluai’s 259th game for Rhinos tomorrow, he will leave a legacy as the most decorated overseas player to appear for the club.
“I’d like to be remembered as a good team player,” Leuluai reflected.
“Someone who’s committed to the team, with a good work ethic.”
Leuluai is set to make a farewell appearance when Rhinos face New Zealand at Headingley in two weeks’ time and will remain at the club as player welfare officer.