LEEDS RHINOS’ veteran prop Kylie Leuluai has revealed he is considering playing on beyond the end of next season.
Leuluai, 36, had been expected to hang up his boots next autumn, along with fellow front-rower Jamie Peacock, who has already confirmed his retirement.
Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington said at the start of pre-season that 2015 would be the swansong for Leuluai, who is on a rolling contract.
But the five-time Grand Final winner has insisted he is yet to make up his mind over his future following his ninth season with Rhinos.
“I am going to see how it goes,” said the Auckland-born former Samoa international, who will celebrate his 37th birthday in March. Realistically I would like to play again, but at the end of the day my body will have the last say – and obviously performance too. If I am doinga job for the team and doing it well and my body’s okay, I will carry on for another year. But I will see how it goes.”
Leuluai played in 28 of Rhinos’ 33 competitive games last year, all but four of those in the starting line-up.
“Obviously I look after myself,” he said. “But credit to Jason Davidson and Blacky (Chris Black) the conditioners, as well as our physios and medical staff.
“They all help and contribute to me still playing and that’s why I am so fit.”
Peacock, Rhinos’ other first-choice prop, turned 37 earlier this month.
Ian Kirke and Ryan Bailey, who made 40 appearances between them last season, have been released, with only former Newcastle Knights forward Adam Cuthbertson coming in.
Injuries to Leuluai and Peacock would leave Rhinos relying on their Aussie recruit, along with 22-year-old Brad Singleton and Andy Yates, who has yet to make a Super League appearance, to man the team’s engine room in the middle of the field.
But Leuluai insisted Rhinos’ pack is strong enough to lead a challenge for honours next year.
“Two players have gone, but we have got a few young guys coming through and it’s their chance to put their hand up and try and earn their spot,” he said.
“That is the nature of sport, out with the old and in with the new. There’s still a couple of us old ones in there, but of course we’ve got enough.
“Who is not capable of filling those roles?”
Leuluai believes Singleton has the ability to step into his or Peacock’s boots, when the veterans do finish.
“He has got to have a big year this year,” Leuluai said.
”There’s also Rob Mulhern and some other boys, like Jordan Baldwinson. He’s gone on loan to Featherstone, but it’s his chance to show what he can do and then come back to the Rhinos. They are the future of the club.”
Leuluai is due to start against Wakefield Trinity Wildcats in the Tetley’s Festive Challenge on Boxing Day.
Of preparations so far, he said: “It has been tough, which is to be expected.
“We need to pick up another level. This is when you earn your money.
“You are in from 8am-3pm and it is a tough time, but you have tough periods in the year as well.”