Leuluai aiming to make another memory for the family

2011 celebrations with George Carmont, Thomas Leuluai, Jeff Lima and Harrison Hansen
2011 celebrations with George Carmont, Thomas Leuluai, Jeff Lima and Harrison Hansen

They met in the final just four years ago but mention ‘Wigan’, ‘Hull’ and ‘Wembley’ in the same breath and – to fans over a certain age – only one year springs to mind: 1985.

It was instantly-hailed the greatest Challenge Cup Final and, in the three decades which have passed since, few deciders have gone close to matching the epic.

Arguably none have surpassed it as a spectacle.

Brett Kenny’s duel with his Parramatta halfback Peter Sterling provided an intriguing sub-plot to the match, which Wigan won 28-24 thanks to tries from John Ferguson (two), Kenny, Henderson Gill and a teenage Shaun Edwards.

Leading the scoring for Hull was two-try Kiwi centre named James Leuluai - just weeks before he would become a proud dad to a baby boy, Thomas.

“People always ask me about that game, but my dad doesn’t really talk about it, to be honest,” said Leuluai.

“I’ve obviously asked a few questions about it because other people have talked about it! But he doesn’t say too much.

“I’ve seen the game now. It seemed like a really big game.”

And what has he made of his dad as a player from the footage?

“He was a really good player,” said Leuluai. “He can’t tackle, I’m not sure he had it covered in that department, but he definitely had it covered in attacking from what I’ve seen.” Leuluai Snr was at Wembley six years ago to watch the Wigan halfback carve his own Challenge Cup story.

He scored one of their five tries as they beat Leeds 28-18 to win the Cup for the first time since 2002 – and the first at Wembley since 1995, the last of their golden eight-year run.

“It was a really cool experience,” said Leuluai. “We missed out on a fair few semis before that, so just to get there was awesome. There were a couple of good tries, one by Joel.

“It was an awesome week, really. I’m obviously looking forward to this one now.

“The build up to it is quite special.

“If you have a club like Wigan, there’s a lot of history which sort of adds to it, and you understand you’re doing something quite special. I’m very fortunate to be going back there again.”

Leuluai returned to the club this season after four years with the other Warriors, in New Zealand, on a contract which will see him join Wigan’s coaching staff when he hangs up his boots. Shaun Wane says the tough-tackling half has a deep understanding of the game.

“It’s just what I’ve learned along the way from different coaches I’ve had,” added Leuluai. “I suppose I look at it a bit more in depth.

“It’s part of your role as a half-back – you’ve got to come up with strategies, and how you think you can best get your team around the park.

“It’s part of the game that I enjoy. I suppose that’s my role here, to control the team and make sure we’re starting the sets off as good as we can.

“And to throw enough good shape at a team to break them down. Waney really pushes us to make sure we have our say. It’s good to have a coach that respects your opinion.”