HENRY FA’AFILI is putting safety before self.
The Leeds Carnegie wingman is one of 15 players out of contract at the end of the season, with his future very much up in the air – but he is steadfastly focusing all his energies on the target mission at Headingley, namely Aviva Premiership survival.
He is leaving all contractual matters to his agent and purely concerning himself with the here and now, with Carnegie’s next 10 matches of monumental importance to both their seasonal – and potentially long-term – future.
The Samoan, who joined Carnegie from Biarritz in the May 2009 – having switched to the 15-a-side code in 2007 after making his name in league with Warrington Wolves – said: “I’m playing for my future, definitely. But I’m just concentrating on playing well and doing my best for Leeds and getting us away from the bottom.
“I’m just leaving contract things to my manager (agent) in that department. But hopefully, if I do play well, it will help my cause.
“I like Leeds and I’ve got my cousin (Kylie Lueluai) who plays for the Rhinos and have a lot of friends there such as Ali Lauitiiti and Brett Webb and things like that.
“But at the end of the day, I’m concentrating on the team and leaving things to my manager.”
Sunday was a day of mixed feelings for Fa’afili and his Carnegie team-mates, who left to rue a damaging opening first twenty minutes in their narrow 15-9 loss to depleted champions Leicester Tigers at Headingley.
At the final whistle, Carnegie were at least grateful for small mercies in that they managed to secure a losing bonus point – their fifth of the campaign – and the one point could yet be a crucial one in their survival fight.
The blow of losing was softened by defeats for relegation rivals Newcastle, who lost at London Irish and Sale Sharks, who went down last Friday night to Bath, with neither having any points to show for their efforts.
But the Tigers’ loss still ranked as an opportunity lost for Carnegie, trailing 10-0 after the first quarter of the game, before getting their act together.
Within a converted score of victory in the closing minutes, the home fans held their breath when Carnegie were awarded an attacking five-metre scrum, but determined Tigers – with ex-Leeds man Pete Bucknall outstanding at tight-head – held out to pocket the win.
It completed their eighth successive league victory over their Yorkshire rivals, with the purple patch stretching back to March 2005.
Leicester effectively took the points and ran, just as they did almost 12 months to the day when a Tigers side devoid of many international marquee players won ugly in an almost identical scoreline at Headingley.
Sticking to the glass-is-half-full mantra after the loss, Fa’afili, 31, said: “We got something for our efforts, at least.
“Obviously, it would have been nicer to win, but in our position, the next big thing is a bonus point, especially against a side like Leicester.
“Leicester were missing some big players, but they still have lots of replacements to come in.
“We didn’t help ourselves in the first twenty minutes when we made a few errors and a few line-outs and scrums didn’t go our way and you can’t give opportunities to clubs like Leicester to come back at you.
“But in the second-half, we kept going and stuck in there.
“Any point, in our position, can’t be underestimated and we just need to get as many as we can and the (Leicester) point might be important at the end of the season.
“The positive side of it is that we’ve still got ten more games and still have to play Newcastle twice and Sale one more time.
“In the second-half, our performance showed what we can do.
“We’re going into the next game (against Saracens) very confident that we can chip away and get a win if we stick to the game plan.
“That said, they are formidable side and everybody knows it won’t be easy, but it’s a challenge we’re looking forward to.”