By Christian Nicolussi
January 29, 2020 — 9.00pm
Joey Leilua thinks himself a better centre than Curtis Scott, but said his days in Canberra were always numbered because of his strained relationship with Ricky Stuart. Leilua enjoyed his first day at Wests Tigers training on a steamy Tuesday and spoke about his excitement to play outside his younger brother Luciano and inside fellow Samoan David Nofoaluma. While Leilua will add plenty of size and experience out wide for the Tigers, he told the Herald how there was no future for him in the nation’s capital.
The 28-year-old and Stuart first clashed over team selection in the lead-up to a round-21 clash against the Sydney Roosters, then again this month when he was snubbed from a Sunshine Coast training camp for being overweight. Even when news filtered through on Monday that Scott had spent the night behind bars and could be stood down for the start of the season with Canberra, Leilua had no appetite to back out on the Tigers and coach Michael Maguire.
“I was never going to backflip, my decision was made and in my mind I was done with Canberra,” Leilua told the Herald. "I couldn’t wait to get here and get around a new environment "Something happened last year between me and ‘Sticky’ [Stuart] and I wasn’t happy. "I was coming back from my neck [surgery] and he told me I’d be back for the Roosters. I would have been up against Latrell [Mitchell], I worked my arse off and got mentally prepared. "Then they went over to New Zealand the week before and had a massive win, he came back and said I wasn’t good enough to play.
"I said to him, ‘How can you say that when you told me to get ready?’
"I asked him if he thought I wasn’t good enough for the team, and he said, ‘you’re not good enough for this team’. "From that moment I was off him. We lost to the Roosters, he called me up the next week and we won. "I was still mad. I wasn’t happy with him. I respect Ricky as a coach and what he has done for me, but I wasn’t happy.
"Even when I came back for pre-season training, I was a bit overweight, I had just had my wedding, and he wasn’t happy. "I wasn’t the only one overweight in the team, but I was the only one told to go and train with reserve grade. “They left me behind for that training camp for two weeks. That’s when my mind was made up to search for another club.” Leilua was into the final year of his deal with the Raiders and told he would not be offered a contract for 2021.
He maintained he was a better option than Scott, the Melbourne recruit who was expected to be given first shot at right centre, and was prepared to fight his way back into first grade if he had to see out the year in Canberra. “Deep down I knew I was better than most centres there, and that’s not being cocky, that’s being confident because I know what I’m capable of,” Leilua said.
When the Herald pointed out to the former Dally M centre of the year that he often produced performances that were “rocks and diamonds”, he laughed and said, "Maybe in 2017 and 2018 it was rocks and diamonds, but then I got hurt in 2019, so you can’t judge me on that. My first seven games last year I considered myself one of the best centres in the game. It took me a while to get back.
"My best years are still to come. I’ll be doing my best to get into shape for round one. I can’t wait to tell [Luciano] what to do. I’ll be screaming at him on the edge.
“If you really want something you can get it. That was the [philosophy] at Canberra and it will be no different at the Tigers - if we really want it we can get it.”
Leilua quickly made an impression with his new Tigers teammates. He weighs around 115kg and plays at 109kg. His signing is expected to be followed by South Sydney utility Adam Doueihi who has already been told to look for a better deal elsewhere by Wayne Bennett and has a tremendous rapport with Maguire.
Meanwhile, the Tigers also confirmed the signing of Parramatta prop Stefano Utoikamanu for three years from 2021.
Wests Tigers’ attempt to low-ball Adam Doueihi for a paltry saving of just $25,000 could ultimately backfire badly on the NRL battlers with the all-conquering Sydney Roosters now ready to swoop.
The Daily Telegraph has told been Doueihi will make the final call on his future on Thursday but not before Trent Robinson’s back-to-back reigning premiers came in with a bid to woo the talented 21-year-old who has now officially exited South Sydney.
While the Rabbitohs are yet to officially sign off on the release, they have told Doueihi they wish him the best and he is free to join whichever club he sees fit, even if it happens to be their arch enemies at Bondi.
It would make for an intriguing swap given the reason Doueihi has been forced to chase his career elsewhere is because former Rooster Latrell Mitchell’s arrival at Redfern basically made Doueihi’s position untenable.
Doueihi is due to meet with his agent Sam Ayoub on Thursday morning where they will sit down and discuss the pros and cons of both offers before making a final decision.
While Doueihi has the chance to own the fullback position at the Tigers, it would be equally hard to turn down a chance to play a part in the Roosters’ historic title defence with a centre spot now up for grabs following a shock pre-season injury to young Billy Smith.
Doueihi could also provide a superb back-up option to partner Luke Keary or Kyle Flanagan in the halves following Cooper Cronk’s retirement if a key injury was to arise during the season.
While fullback and centre are now considered Doueihi’s best chances for nailing down a regular NRL starting spot, the reality is that he has played most of his football at five-eighth and he has the size, skill and athleticism to be equally at home at all positions.
“He has got a tough decision to make and he is genuinely caught between a rock and a hard place for a number of factors,” Ayoub said.
“But he is still fortunate to be in this position and he is not taking the privilege lightly.”
It’s also no secret that Doueihi and his family have been left questioning just how appreciated he might be at the Tigers given they have haggled for several weeks now over the money they were willing to pay.
While Doueihi is on a reported $550,000 for 2020 at Souths, The Daily Telegraph has been told the Tigers could have got away with paying him just $350,000 for this year but they didn’t want to go higher than $325,000.
The fact the Roosters are now showing him the love and the money could be extremely hard for Doueihi to resist.
The Canberra Raiders were also thought to be considering making a late play for Doueihi but at this point are unable to make any moves as they wait and see what eventuates in relation to the serious charges Curtis Scott is facing for his alleged Australia Day antics.
Melbourne was the other club mentioned but the Storm are ready to cut a separate deal with the Tigers, trading exciting young hooker Harry Grant for Paul Momorovski on a one-season swap.
The Tigers can afford to let Momorovski go following Joey Leilua’s arrival from Canberra after Leilua made way to accommodate Scott’s arrival - Via Crawley (DT)
Bloody he’ll what a great day of news just had to read through 20 pages haha the plan from Madge and Bellamy is pure geniuses
Yeah, you’d think he’d have performance based provisos in the loan contract too. He might like it and want to stay if he performs well under Bellamy, he’s off contract at the end of the year, a ready-made replacement for JAC come the end of season - we just have to return Harry Grant in one piece, who knows.
Belly & Madge are old friends I’m sure everything was discussed. Good job
The best part for me is I live close to @geo
Not anymore 117…renting that out at Sandy Point after 21years as the family home…too big for us since the kids moved out…Daughter got married and the son is never coming back after refusing to dump the Rorters…
Now inhabited by a family of Samoan’s 3 adults 7 kids…lovely people…
Moved into unit 100m from Macarthur Square we owned and were always moving too…
Have 1 other property in Minto and 1 on the Sunshine Coast…both rented…
The millionaire boys.
@Geo doesn’t waste money on fashion accessories!
Geo the property & pie investor
1 Adam Doueihi
2 David Nofoaluma
3 Joseph Leilua
4 Moses Mbye
5 Robert Jennings
6 Benji Marshall
7 Luke Brooks
8 Russell Packer
9 Harry Grant
10 Alex Twal
11 Luciano Leilua
12 Luke Garner
13 Josh Aloiai
14 Zane Musgrove
15 Thomas Mikaele
16 Michael Chee-Kam
17 Billy Walters
Like it!! Mbye and BJ swap sides as does Luke Garner and LL imo. Alex seyfarth will come into the side later on in the season, depending on how many minutes grant can play I reckon.
Correct Madge, thanks for that.
My lazy ass copy+pasted someone’s
Team and reshuffled it a little bit.