Family business faces crunch as Leuluais prepare for battle

Loyalties of biggest clan in rugby league will be tested tonight as cousins go head to head for a place in the Grand Final. By Dave Hadfield

It is a complicated business being one of rugby league's Leuluai family this weekend. The game's biggest clan has three members all playing in their biggest games of the season. Wigan's Thomas and his cousin, Leeds' Kylie, are up against each other for a place in the Super League Grand Final tonight.

Watching them from the stand at Headingley will be their uncle Phillip, who has his own big day on Sunday, when he plays for Salford against the Celtic Crusaders in the National League One Grand Final. Needless to say, Tommy and Kylie will be at Warrington for that one. It goes with the territory when you're a Leuluai.

The family's roots are in Samoa, where Phil's parents were both born, but he grew up in south Auckland, the next-to-youngest of nine brothers. The eldest was James, a regular New Zealand international and a favourite at Hull, for whom he played in the classic 1985 Challenge Cup final at Wembley. The young Phillip was allowed to stay up late to watch and remembers a childhood in which rugby league played a massive part.

"I just remember us as a big, happy family, out there playing all the time; we were never an indoors family. I don't know about life being tough, but when you're the eighth out of nine there were a lot of hand-me-downs."

Most of the Leuluai boys played for one or other of the south Auckland league clubs, but Phil says he never took the game too seriously until he had a two-season stint in France with Limoux and UTC. From there, he played first grade in the NRL with Cronulla until the call came midway through last season from Salford.

When he arrived to join their unsuccessful attempt to avoid relegation from Super League, he had the disorienting experience of finding two of his nephews already playing in the same competition. James' son, Thomas, had played scrum-half for Harlequins and their predecessors, the London Broncos, before signing for Wigan, while Kylie was halfway through his first season at Leeds.

The senior Leuluai currently playing the game says his nephews will bring very different attributes to tonight's contest. The nimble Thomas will be alongside Trent Barrett at the Wigan control panel. "He's run into some good form, has Tommy, but he's been saying to me that Wigan need to stick to a particular game plan for this match," says his uncle.

Phil also has a lively appreciation of Kylie's qualities. "Man, he's strong," he says of the Leeds prop. "I wouldn't like to run into him too often. He just bends them in half at training."

Kylie has proved to be what might be termed a predictable player in a good sense, just running straight and tackling hard game after game. Tommy has had more up-and-down fortunes at Wigan, but seems to have established himself now and will have more responsibility yet after Barrett has departed next season.

With a foot in both camps, Phillip sidesteps the question of who he will support tonight. "I'll have to sit on the fence," he says. "I've even got two sons – one supports Wigan and one supports Leeds. I grew up as a Hull fan because of my brother James."

When Kylie and Thomas have resolved their family business, Uncle Phil will take centre stage. He already knows he will be playing Super League against his nephews next season. "But it would be perfect to go up as champions," he says. "I didn't know what relegation was when I came here. I'd never heard of it. I wondered what had happened to some of the old clubs, like Widnes and Halifax, and when we dropped down, there they were."

Along with the Celtic Crusaders, Salford are bidding farewell to that company, but he could have an on-field reunion with his nephews before the next Super League season.

For the World Cup in Australia, Thomas is the likely scrum-half for New Zealand, while Phil and Kylie are both in the Samoa squad.

Stranger things have happened than those two countries colliding in the semis, giving the extended Leuluai family another of those insoluble questions of where their loyalties lie.

Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again say analysts

News
A Brazilian wandering spider
news

World's most lethal spider found under a bunch of bananas

Life and Style
fashion

British supermodel and hitmaker join forces to launch a 'huge song'

Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually a challenging and nuanced title

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in the win over QPR
footballInternet reacts to miss shocker for Liverpool striker
News
people
Voices
Sol Campbell near his home in Chelsea
voices
News
i100
News
Kimi the fox cub
newsBurberry under fire from animal rights group - and their star, Kimi
Sport
Fans of Palmeiras looks dejected during the match between Palmeiras and Santos
footballPalmeiras fan killed trying to 'ambush' bus full of opposition supporters
Arts and Entertainment
filmsIt's nearly a wrap on Star Wars: Episode 7, producer reveals
Life and Style
fashion
News
i100
News
<p>Jonathan Ross</p>
<p>Jonathan Ross (or Wossy, as he’s affectionately known) has been on television and radio for an extraordinarily long time, working on a seat in the pantheon of British presenters. Hosting Friday Night with Jonathan Ross for nine years, Ross has been in everything from the video game Fable to Phineas and Ferb. So it’s probably not so surprising that Ross studied at Southampton College of Art (since rebranded Southampton Solent), a university known nowadays for its media production courses.</p>
<p>However, after leaving Solent, Ross studied History at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, now part of the UCL, a move that was somewhat out of keeping with the rest of his career. Ross was made a fellow of the school in 2006 in recognition of his services to broadcasting.</p>
TV

Rumours that the star wants to move on to pastures new

News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past