Leeds Rhinos Bygones: Man mountain who became an instant hit with Rhinos fans

Ali Lauitiiti in 2004.
Ali Lauitiiti in 2004.
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Headingley haS seen a lot of players from the NRL make the grade with Leeds Rhinos over the years and Ali Lauitiiti certainly fits this criteria.

The New Zealand-born forward was a man mountain, hardly anyone could stop him from scoring and was a massive figure in the Super League with Leeds Rhinos and Wakefield Trinity Wildcats.

During his playing career at Leeds, he won the Super League four times and the World Club Challenge twice. Lauitiiti claimed a spot in the Super League Dream Team two years running in 2004 and 2005.

Lauitiiti spent a magnificent seven years with the Rhinos from 2004-2011 after playing in the NRL with the New Zealand Warriors and also had three years with Wakefield from 2012-2015. For Leeds, he notched 63 tries in 196 appearances which was a magnificent feat for a forward.

Lauitiiti is back playing with the New Zealand Warriors for their reserve side and would become the oldest NRL player if he was to play in the first team.

In the first month with the Rhinos, Lauitiiti became a massive hit as he bagged a brace in the 28-24 victory over Hull FC at Headingley on June 25, 2004, which meant he had scored five tries in his opening five matches.

This game also kept Rhinos’ 100 per cent winning record at home which helped them to the Super League trophy.

Lauitiiti scored the opening try for the Rhinos after he went through a gap to touch down over the line. Burrow converted to give the Rhinos a 6-0 lead. Then Leeds went further ahead as winger Marcus Bai gave a sensational pass to Senior to score, Burrow missing the conversion that gave the Rhinos a healthy 10-point cushion.

Hull FC then hit back with scores from Richard Horne and ex-Rhino Nick Scruton, both converted by Paul Cooke which meant Leeds were just two points behind at half time.

Rhinos re-took the lead as Chev Walker scored from a Andrew Dunemann kick before Hull FC hit back from Shaun Briscoe.

Lauitiiti’s second try, which was converted by Burrow, added to by a Sinfield penalty and a Jones-Buchanan try, gave the Rhinos the win, despite a late consolation by Colin Best.