Rhinos legend returns to New Zealand

Ali Lauitiiti
Ali Lauitiiti
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Former Leeds and Wakefield forward Ali Lauitiiti is to end his career where it began after signing for New Zealand Warriors for 2016.

The 36-year-old former New Zealand international second-row has spent the last 12 years in Super League and played his final game on English soil as a guest for the Rhinos against the touring Kiwis in October.

Lauitiiti’s contract with the Wildcats expired at the end of the 2015 season and Warriors’ recruitment and development manager Tony Iro announced he has signed a one-year second-tier deal, paving the way for him to return to where his top-level career began 17 years ago.

“For Ali this is a chance to come back to where it all began,” said Iro. “With his depth of experience he has so much to offer us as a leader and mentor both on and off the field.

“In re-aligning our squad, our goal was to retain and recruit quality players while also ensuring we had a strong blend of experience throughout the wider group.

“While Ali is 36 now, we saw he still has his range of skills when he played for Leeds against the Kiwis a few weeks ago.”

Lauitiiti made a try-scoring NRL debut for the Warriors as an 18-year-old against North Sydney in 1998 and went on to play 115 games before moving to Leeds in 2004. He won six Grand Finals and two World Club Challenges in his eight years with the Rhinos.

“As a family we’re excited about heading home after being away so long,” he said. “For me it couldn’t be better being given this chance to come back to the Warriors. I left a long time ago but the club has always been really special to me.

“While I’ve kept training I’ll have some catching up to do once I join the boys for training but I want to do all I can to help the coaching staff, the team and the club in any way I can.”

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