Sacrifices have Luciano Leilua ready to take St George Illawarra Dragons chance

Magic man: Luciano Leilua scores a try for the Dragons in their elimination finals win over Brisbane last season. Picture: Dave Hunt/AAP Image
Magic man: Luciano Leilua scores a try for the Dragons in their elimination finals win over Brisbane last season. Picture: Dave Hunt/AAP Image

Luciano Leilua's big goal for 2019 is simple - to make it impossible for Paul McGregor to leave him out of the team.

The dynamic 22-year-old came of age at the back end of last season, highlighted by his try in the elimination finals win over the Broncos in Brisbane.

Leilua, a Hurstville United junior, will have an early chance to stake a claim for a place in the Dragons' squad with new signing Korbin Sims suspended for the first two weeks of the competition and Jack de Belin's unavailability.

With Tyson Frizell shifting to lock in place of de Belin, space has opened up on the right edge. And Leilua is keen to fill it.

Leilua told the Leader the message from McGregor was clear.

"Mary has just spoken to me about playing consistent footy," he said.

"He wants me to keep pushing him to keep playing me. I've got to make him pick me and give him reasons why I should be picked in the team every week.

"That's where I've got to keep pushing, especially with things like my defensive efforts. Pre-season was tough but I think I handled it pretty well.

"I think consistency is the big one for me. And also my defence, just being a little bit better in my effort areas. I think if I can fix those things in my game then my attack will just come on the back of that."

The former Australian Schoolboys representative and Endeavour Sports High student has sacrificed plenty in the off-season to get himself into contention for round one.

A commitment to his diet and to extra cardio training has seen Leilua reach his optimal playing weight of 112 kilograms, which took plenty of work with St George Illawarra's high performance staff to achieve.

Leilua is now keen to make the most of the opportunity available on the Dragons' right with the early mornings and late afternoons of extra training having paid off.

"I think for me my goal this season is mainly to be playing consistent footy," he said.

"Also to try and get as many games as I can. I want to be a regular first grader, that's my main goal. I'm feeling really good and fit and healthy and just really ready for round one.

"I want to try and put my name in that top 17 each round. I think everyone wants to be a starter. You've got to earn the respect of the players and the coaching staff to get a starting spot.

"But I'll always play and do what's best for the team. It's totally up to Mary. I put a lot of my faith in Mary and the coaching staff. It's up to them to make the call and I know whoever they pick is going to rip in for the boys."

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