Mum's the word for Leuluai farewell
Victory over the Eels on Sunday is the best remaining scenario for Thomas Leuluai to end his career as a New Zealand Warrior, but the man himself would just be happy to have his mum finally come to watch him play.
The Leuluai name is synonymous with rugby league, with Thomas's dad James a highly-regarded former Kiwi, younger brother MacGraff currently playing for Widnes in the Super League, and uncle Phillip and cousin Kylie both former NRL and Super League players.
But that doesn't tend to transfer to large family support at games, and Thomas admitted he wouldn't be surprised if he ends up with leftover tickets for Sunday's Round 26 match at Mt Smart Stadium.
"My mum doesn't even come to watch the games," Leuluai laughed.
"I struggle to give the [free] tickets away some weeks.
"I think mum will most probably pop down and have a 'looksee', dad will be there no doubt and my brothers and sisters if they have got a bit of spare time might come and watch.
"But look, rugby league has been a big part of our family for a long time, it's not going to be a big farewell thing for my family."
A tough player on the field and a low-profile guy off it, the 31-year-old standoff said the end of his second stint with his hometown-club wouldn't be an emotional affair for him either.
"I'm not going to be crying in the sheds," he said.
"I don't get too sentimental like that to be honest… don't get me wrong, I will miss the place, I love all the people here and they are great people.
"I am just one part of the team and just want to do my part for them on the weekend.
"I just want to finish with a win so we can sit around and enjoy it."
After securing a release from the final year of his contract in order to return to the UK, where wife Natalie hails from, Leuluai will link up with former club the Wigan Warriors.
After initially departing the New Zealand Warriors in 2004 – at the end of what remains the club's worst season on record – Leuluai returned in 2013 and has been a cornerstone of their NRL side over the past four seasons.
He will depart with a familiar feeling of unfinished business, with the club failing to make the finals for the fifth-straight season in 2016, but said there had been some fantastic memories along the way.
"Obviously not playing any finals football has been pretty gutting," Leuluai said.
"It has been a challenging stint here… but definitely enjoyable.
"I have most probably enjoyed all of the milestone games, (Simon Mannering's) 250th and stuff like that, Manu [Vatuvei] and all the players who I played with coming through the ranks and played a lot of football with, I have really enjoyed those sort of game that meant a lot to them.
"[Wigan] have got a great history there and they have been quite successful for a long time, so I am looking forward to hopefully tasting some of that success with them back there."
Meanwhile coach Andrew McFadden joined in on paying tribute to the 31-Test Kiwi, admitting he would leave a sizeable hole in the squad for 2017.
"He has been an absolute pleasure to coach, Thomas… he is a very uncompromising character, he is a great leader in our team and he is someone that we are going to miss," McFadden said.
"He has copped some criticism over time, but he is a very crucial part of our side and what we have done, and that will be part of the motivation this weekend, to play for Thomas.
"He is a terrific young man."