VETERAN FRONT-ROWER Kylie Leuluai has confirmed he will play on for Leeds Rhinos in 2015.
The Auckland-born, former Samoa international insists he has still got what it takes to continue at the highest level and coach Brian McDermott has described his decision as “great news”.
Leuluai, who turned 36 in March, is on a rolling contract which allows him to stay at Leeds for as long as he and the club feel he is capable of doing a job.
His decision to continue means Rhinos’ two front-line props next year will have a combined age of 74.
Jamie Peacock, whose 37th birthday is in December, is under contract until the end of the 2015 campaign, when he plans to retire.
“I am enjoying playing the game and I am not ready to finish yet,” said Leuluai.
“I enjoy being with the boys and being associated with the club and that was important for me, however the decision was always going to be performance-related, especially in my position and what I can do for the team.
“There are certain levels and requirements that are required of you in any team, but especially with this group of players and, like any job, you have to be able to meet those requirements.”
McDermott is confident Leuluai is capable of at least one more year at the top level.
“It is great that Kylie is with us for next season,” McDermott said.
“We have spoken about the transition process that this group of players will be going through during the next few years and the standards that Kylie sets are something that all young players can aim for.
“His workload and commitment is something that is thoroughly appreciated by his team-mates and the coaching staff and he continues to be a valuable part of our team.
“The fact that he has played so many games for the club shows his dedication to the club and the Super League competition.”
Leuluai joined Rhinos from Australian outfit Manly Sea Eagles ahead of the 2007 season and has made more metres per carry – with an average of 8.12 – than any other forward at the club this year.
He is one of only five props in Super League averaging more than eight metres every time he carries the ball in 2014. Tomorrow’s visit of Bradford Bulls will see Leuluai equal Australian forward Arthur Clues’ total of 236 games for Leeds, set between 1947 and 1954.
The only overseas players to have made more appearances for the club are Aussies Eric Harris (383), Dinny Campbell (258) and Frank O’Rourke (240).
Meanwhile, at the other end of the scale,18-year-old back Ash Handley is set to make his Rhinos debut tomorrow.
Handley, who has signed a full-time deal for next season, is a former Oulton Raiders junior and has scored 19 tries in 17 appearances for Rhinos’ under-19s this season.
McDermott has opted to rest winger Ryan Hall and centre Kallum Watkins. Joel Moon, Rhinos’ other first-choice centre, is sidelined due to a knee problem and Carl Ablett (elbow) also drops out from the team which won at Salford Red Devils last week.
Ben Jones-Bishop comes back into contention and Ryan Bailey (concussion), Ian Kirke (concussion), Brett Delaney (thigh) and Mitch Achurch (knee) could all return after injury.
The Bulls are also set to welcome back Scotland forward Dale Ferguson, who has made only four appearances since joining them from Huddersfield because of a succession of injuries.