“I don’t miss playing, I was ready”: Thomas Leuluai on retirement

30 Mar 23, 3:37PM 0 Comments

Written by John Davidson

Photo by Getty Images

Thomas Leuluai says he has no regrets about hanging up his boots six months ago and is thriving in his new role as an assistant coach at Wigan.

The Kiwi called time on his illustrious career at the end of last season at the age of 37. Leuluai played over 400 NRL and Super League games, including 40 Tests for the Kiwis.

The playmaker debuted for the New Zealand Warriors in 2003 and had stints with London and Wigan. As a hooker and halfback he won a World Cup and a Four Nations with his country, in 2008 and 2010, and two Super League grand finals, two Challenge Cups and a World Club Challenge.

“Sometimes you just know, mentally I had enough,” Leuluai told Everything Rugby League.

“I just got to a point where I just knew. I knew it was the right time for me. I was grateful to get a role like this with the club.”

Leuluai is now an assistant to Wigan coach Matty Peet at the DW Stadium.

After six rounds of Super League the Cherry and Whites sit in third spot on the ladder, with four victories from six matches.

“Coaching’s good, I’m enjoying it,” he said.

“I’m learning, there’s a lot of new stuff to it. Although I played for a long time, there’s a lot of different things to it. You appreciate what the coaches really go through.

“I’m learning a lot as we go, but as I’ve been around the game a long time I’ve picked up a lot of things from a lot of different teams and coaches. That’s the beauty of that.

“Matty’s a young coach also, he’s coached for a very long time so he’s very experienced also and he does things a little bit different. He’s a forward-thinker, outside the box and there was an opportunity to jump into a system I was familiar with too.”

The son Kiwi great James Leuluai, Tommy has no aspirations currently to becoming a head coach.

“Not at the moment, I don’t think like that at all,” he said.

“I wouldn’t have said I have big aspirations about being a head coach or anything like that. I enjoy being in the game.

“I sort of look at coaching as me passing on my knowledge to these guys and try and help them achieve what they want to achieve.

“I think as you go on you might get an itch for it, but at the moment it’s definitely more about learning about coaching.

“I look at it as everyday trying to help these guys get better.”

There is a rising Polynesian influence in rugby league, both in the NRL and Super League, but few coaches of Pasifika origin. The 37-year-old would like to see that trend change.

“We need it, we definitely do,” Leuluai said.

“I was luckily enough to work with the Kiwis and inside there and it’s quite obvious we need it. We had three Australian coaches, they’re all great coaches and they did a fantastic job.

“But New Zealand just doesn’t have the depth in coaching, particularly with all the Pacific Islanders in the NRL and obviously over here. We definitely need more of them.

“I know Benji Marshall’s getting involved [at Wests Tigers], Adam Blair’s taking a role at the Warriors, the more we can get into those roles the better for our people.”

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