Warriors veteran utility granted early release

Thomas Leuluai

Making an impact for the side in the New Zealand Warriors recent resurgence, the club will lose experienced utility Thomas Leuluai, who will return to the Wigan Warriors in the Super League.

Leuluai, who approached the club and asked for a return to England had his query granted returned to the Warriors for a second stint ahead of the 2013 season.

Whilst they would have liked to have kept him around longer, they knew that he always favoured a return to England and did not stand in his way when he asked.

“Tommy is contracted until the end of next season but he approached us some time ago asking for a release so he and his family could return to England,” said Vodafone Warriors managing director Jim Doyle.

“While we were certainly keen to see him play out the term of his contract, Tommy has always made it clear he would go back to England at some stage.

“His leadership qualities and professionalism have been invaluable but we understand his desire to return to England and take comfort from the fact we have a number of options in his positions.

“For now, he’s fully committed and passionate about giving the Vodafone Warriors all he can for the rest of this season.”

Leuluai admits that he would have liked to have seen out his Warriors contract in full but felt like the best decision for he and his family was a move back to England.

“My intention was to see out my time here,” he said.

“I’ve loved being in familiar surroundings even though we’ve had our share of challenges but we’ve reached a point where we would like to go back.

“I can’t thank the Vodafone Warriors enough for their understanding with this. Jim and Cappy (Andrew McFadden) have been fantastic about it.”

In recent times, Leuluai has returned to England as a spectator and has been in touch with Wigan officials.

“It was always part of our long term plans for Tommy to return to Wigan. We have remained in contact over the last few years and it is clear that he still has a great affinity for the Wigan Club.

“Tommy was invited back to Wigan during last year to help him rehabilitate after injury and to contribute to the coaching and team spirit of the players. He was always a natural leader on and off the pitch previously but his time in New Zealand and the NRL has improved these qualities even further. We believe his maturity, leadership, positional flexibility and strength will make him an excellent addition to the Wigan squad.

“It is clear also that Tommy has all the attributes needed to become a very good coach and we look forward to him starting that stage of his career with us in a few years’ time.

With his wife hailing from Wigan and a young child for them both, Leuluai felt that a return to England and thus a move back to Wigan, would suit them all best.

“With my wife being from Wigan and us having a new-born baby, I thought for my family it would be better for us to be back in England. I had a bit of a look around in Super League but, as soon as I knew that Wigan were interested, it was a no-brainer to be honest. I’ve got a lot of close friends at Wigan and I really love the Club and its history.

“I really enjoyed my time there and I look forward to coming back and representing the Club with the pride and the passion that it deserves and to winning some more trophies before moving on to a career in coaching.”

Leuluai will move into an assistant coaching role once his playing contract is up, with the signing one that pleases Wigan coach Shaun Wane.

“Tommy is a fantastic player that needs little introduction to the Wigan fans. Hard-hitting, tough and uncompromising, he is a player that really leads from the front.

“He is very experienced and a great addition to the playing squad for the next few years. His very presence just improves us and we are confident that Tommy will also enjoy a successful coaching career after he has finished playing.”

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