THE MOST successful import in Leeds Rhinos’ history is chasing more glory before he hangs up his boots.
New Zealand-born prop Kylie Leuluai, 37, has enjoyed a golden nine seasons with Leeds, winning five Super League titles, two Challenge Cup finals, two league leaders’ shields and a World Club Challenge.
Tomorrow’s Super League semi-final against St Helens will be his 257th game for Leeds and his last at Headingley Carnegie, but with one more title still up for grabs, he insisted it will be business as normal.
“I think it will be emotional for my children more than anything, because they’ve been brought up around the place,” said Leuluai. “Coming to Headingley Stadium and watching the Rhinos play is their favourite thing to do.
“For me, I have got some great memories that will stay with me forever, but there always comes a time when you have to pull the plug and say goodbye to the game and the stadium and the atmosphere and I am ready for that. But there’s still a job to be done and I’m not really thinking about it being my last home game.
“I am thinking about getting to Old Trafford, that’s the plan. If everything works out, that would be the best place to finish. Not everything goes your way in sport, you can be on the wrong end of the result, but, hopefully, we will do the job.”
Rhinos will go into tomorrow’s game in high spirits after last Friday’s remarkable win at Huddersfield Giants, which ended a run of three successive defeats and secured their first league leaders’ shield since 2009.
“We just needed a win,” said Leuluai. “Even a draw would have done us, just to get back on the horse again. We have done that now. I wouldn’t say we were playing badly, but the reason we were losing was because of ourselves.
“It was easily fixable and we did that last week. Fortunately we had a bit of luck on our side when Hally (Ryan Hall) scored that try. Before that, with four minutes to go and eight points down, I didn’t think we were going to snatch that one.”
Leuluai reckons the never-say-die attitude Rhinos showed last week will be crucial if they are to be crowned champions in nine days’ time.
“We have been together for so long and we have got so many experienced players,” he said. “That shows in situations like last week.
“It was a great feeling to be part of, a lot better than winning at Wembley. To be involved in a game like that and winning like that, it was a great feeling.”
Rhinos’ form collapsed after their Cup final win at the end of August but Leuluai is confident last week’s high won’t have a similar effect. He said: “The build-up to Wembley absorbs so much energy and the intensity at training and everything dropped off because we had reached that goal.
“Now we are trying to rise again, we have still got something to aim for. We will have to play well, but there’s a lot at stake – pretty much the whole season is on the line.”