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Humble Leuluai to shun finale spotlight

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 2/09/2016 Angelo Risso

Thomas Leuluai © AAP Image/Michael Chambers Thomas Leuluai Thomas Leuluai's NRL career will not draw to a close on Sunday with tears or speeches or wistful glances around Mount Smart Stadium.

He's not even sure, he says, if his own mother will come.

But the 31-year-old does hope his final Warriors outing ends with the satisfaction of victory and a few cold ones with the boys.

Leuluai has played six years with the Warriors in two separate stints, making his 85th and final appearance for the club this weekend against Parramatta.

He'll return to English club Wigan in the off-season, where he previously enjoyed a successful six-year spell.

But the self-effacing Kiwi won't be getting too sentimental about it.

"I won't be crying in the sheds or anything like that," Leuluai said.

"Don't get me wrong, I'll miss this place and love all the people here.

"But I'm just one part of the team."

In his time in Auckland, Leuluai has played just one season of finals football - his first, in 2003, when the Warriors fell in the semi-final to eventual premiers Penrith.

He said the team's failure to make the finals in 2016, particularly given the Warriors' late collapse last week against the Tigers, was a regret that would linger for some time.

Yet the five-eighth was confident the Warriors would make progress without him.

"There's a lot of good young players coming through, so I'm pretty sure there won't be any trouble going forward," Leuluai said.

"We've definitely improved from when I first came here and even from the start of the year."

Head coach Andrew McFadden lauded Leuluai for his professionalism and skill.

He said Leuluai was a pleasure to coach.

"He has a very uncompromising character and he's a great leader in our team," McFadden said.

"He's someone we're going to miss."

Leuluai, who expressed his wish to see McFadden stay in the top job despite overseeing yet another unsuccessful finals tilt, hoped to go out on a high against Parramatta.

The Eels have been dogged by problems off the field in 2016, including a salary cap breach that saw them docked 12 points.

Star recruit Kieran Foran also quit the club with mental health issues, playmaker Corey Norman was suspended for drug possession and Jarryd Hayne snubbed his ex-side for the Titans.

Leuluai was impressed by the Eels' efforts in the circumstances.

"It's a credit to them that they've been out of the playoffs for a long time but been playing some really good football," he said.

"I just want to finish with a win so we can all sit around and enjoy it and have a beer."


* The Warriors have won nine of their past 13 matches against the Eels, including their last three NRL encounters.

* Five of the past six matches between the two sides have seen more than 45 points scored.

* Only the last-placed Knights have conceded more points per game (33.6) than the Warriors (24.4) in 2016.

* Parramatta have lost their past five away matches for the first time in three years.


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