Leuluai feeling like a newcomer again

Leuluai has made 168 appearances for Wigan
Leuluai has made 168 appearances for Wigan

Thomas Leuluai could have been forgiven for feeling like the new-boy when he officially returned to Wigan duty this week!

The Kiwi ace is certainly no stranger to the club. He made 168 appearances for Wigan in six years before returning to the NRL in 2013, winning all three domestic trophies along the way.

But the high turnover in personnel since then has has left him making introductions to his new team-mates.

“There are only a few players still here from when I was - I just did a weights session and I only knew two guys,” smiled Leuluai, who has previously played alongside the Tomkins brothers, Sean O’Loughlin, Liam Farrell, Ben Flower, Micky McIlorum and Sam Powell.

“The place is obviously familiar and the coaching staff as well, but team-wise it’s a lot different to when I was last here, and it’s about getting to know everyone.”

Leuluai was given extra time off after playing for New Zealand in the Four Nations.

“I started back on Monday, it was a bit of a wake-up call but hopefully the body should be right within the next two weeks,” said the 31-year-old, who has replaced Matty Smith at halfback.

“It’s always a bit disappointing when you come back in and you’re a bit behind the pack.

“But you’ve just got to work hard and get back to where you want to be.

“I tried to look after myself in the off-season, I’m well rested anyway, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Leuluai missed the Four Nations final with a broken jaw suffered in the Kiwis’ shock draw with Scotland.

But he will be fit for the opening day of the season, at Salford on February 11 – just a week before their World Club Challenge clash with Cronulla Sharks.