James Leuluai

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James Leuluai
Personal information
Full name A'au James Leuluai
Playing information
Position Centre
Years Team Pld T G FG P
Mt Wellington
1985 Manly-Warringah 5 0 0 0 0
1985–88 Hull
1987–?? Petone
1988–90 Wakefield Trinity 51 12
Total 56 12 0 0 0
Years Team Pld T G FG P
New Zealand Māori
1979–86 New Zealand 29 14 0 0 51
1987–?? Wellington
1987 Central Districts
Coaching information
Years Team Gms W D L W%
1994 Wellington City 22 8 0 14 36
Source: RLP

A'au James Leuluai[1] is a New Zealand former international rugby league player. His favoured position was centre. He is the father of Wigan Warriors and New Zealand international Thomas Leuluai. He is also the uncle of Leeds Rhinos prop Kylie Leuluai.

Playing career[edit]

A Mt Wellington junior, in his career Leuluai played for the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles, Wakefield Trinity (Heritage #1007), Hull, Leigh, Ryedale York and Doncaster. Leuluai also represented the New Zealand Kiwis and New Zealand Māori. Between 1979 and 1986 he played in 29 test matches for his country.

His Hull FC début, alongside fellow débutant Dane O'Hara and Gary Kemble (who had already appeared) came on 27/9/81 v Castleford. Achievements over the next year included helping Hull to win the John Player Trophy, also being Premiership runners and of course to lift the Challenge Cup in the 1982 replay at Elland Road final, the first time the Challenge Cup had been back at the Boulevard since 1914, defeating Widnes 18-9 after a thrilling 14-14 draw at Wembley. Nicknamed "Lullaby", as he so often fell asleep off the field he was anything but sleepy on it, scoring many remarkable tries including what the Yorkshire Post described as "one of the greatest solo tries of all time" in the 1983 Challenge Cup semi final victory over Castleford, passing four Castleford players and racing around half of the length of the field without a hand ever touching him until he had crossed the line.

He is of course also well known for scoring two tries for Hull in what many still regard as the best Wembley Final ever, the 1984–85 Challenge Cup final against Wigan Warriors[2] which, after a thrilling fight back from 28 -12 down at Half time Hull narrowly lost 28-24

In 1986/7, after failing to agree a new contract with Hull he was transfer listed at £50,000. "Jimmy" subsequently played 6 games on loan to Leigh before returning to the Boulevard for 3 more games and a further 27 in 1987 / 88. In October 1988 he then signed for Wakefield Trinity, making his début in the 12-34 defeat to Wigan at Central Park, Wigan, playing 51 times over 2 seasons and scoring 12 tries. In 1990/91 he moved to Ryedale York, playing 7 matches and scoring 2 tries before ending his UK career at Doncaster the same year with 13 games and 1 try. His final match on UK soil was a Doncaster home game to Leigh on 14 April 1991, played in front of just 1,557, a rather sad end to a great Rugby League career[3]

Such was their subsequent commitment to the British game that Leuluai and his Hull counterparts Gary Kemble & Dane O'Hara (Fred Ah Kuoi had served 4 years with the Club at this point and so would not be eligible until the following year) saw the Government & Rugby Football League change rules and by laws regarding overseas players in 1986 to take those who had shown such commitment outside of the overseas player quotas.

After he had finished his English career, Leuluai returned to New Zealand and started playing for Wellington. He helped them defeat Auckland for the first time in 75 years. It was during this time in Wellington that Leuluai began his coaching career.[4]

Coaching career[edit]

Leuluai was the coach of the Wellington City Dukes in the 1994 Lion Red Cup.[5]

During the early seasons of the Bartercard Cup, Leuluai was the coach of the Eastern Tornadoes.[6] He later took on the role of the Junior Kiwis in 2002.[7]

Between 2003 and 2005 Leuluai was one of Daniel Andersons two assistant coaches with the New Zealand Kiwis.

After a career of coaching New Zealand representative sides, Leuluai applied for the head coaching job of the New Zealand Kiwis in 2005 and was heavily favoured to be appointed until he withdrew due to personal reasons. Brian McClennan was appointed coach instead.

In July 2007 Leuluai again applied to coach the New Zealand Kiwis but ultimately Gary Kemble was appointed coach.[8] Leuluai served as assistant under Kemble.

In 2011 Leuluai co-coached the Mangere East Hawks in the Auckland Rugby League competition.[9]


  1. ^ LEULUAI, A'au James 1979 - 86 - Kiwi #547 nzleague.co.nz
  2. ^ Top tries: James Leuluai BBC Sport, 27 February 2004
  3. ^ source Hull FC 100 Greats by Raymond Fletcher,1992 ISBN 978-0752424293.
  4. ^ Coffey and Wood The Kiwis: 100 Years of International Rugby League ISBN 1-86971-090-8
  5. ^ Lion Red Rugby League Annual 1994, New Zealand Rugby Football League, 1994. p.129
  6. ^ Bulls brace for potent tornado The Press, 5 May 2001
  7. ^ 2002 Junior Kiwis NZRL.co.nz
  8. ^ Brown, Michael (29 July 2007). "League: Leuluai a last-minute candidate". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 6 October 2011. 
  9. ^ Superleague, Volume 5, Issue 4, Edition 26 2010. p.22.

External links[edit]