St George Illawarra Dragons back-rower Luciano Leilua.

Why McGregor asked Leilua to play two games last weekend

St George Illawarra Dragons interchange forwards could be regularly asked to play two matches per weekend if coach Paul McGregor believes they need more playing time or wants them to work on specific areas of their game.

Backrower Luciano Leilua backed up after playing 22 minutes for the Dragons in last Thursday night’s 34-12 defeat of the Brisbane Broncos to play for the club’s NSWRL Intrust Super Premiership team on Saturday.

Leilua, who carried the ball 32 metres in three runs and made eight tackles during his stint on the left edge, played another 40 minutes against Mounties at WIN Stadium.

“Mary wanted me to get some more minutes and do some work on my defence so I just went out there to do that,” Leilua said.

“It was just a last-minute thing. I came in on Friday and Mary just told me I could play on Saturday. He told me I have to get my defence right. I said, no worries, I will do whatever I need to do to get in the team. I think I played 40 minutes.”

With players who don’t start an NRL match eligible to play in the Intrust Super Premiership during the same round, it is a move McGregor plans to use throughout the season if he feels it would benefit for the player.

St George Illawarra Dragons back-rower Luciano Leilua.
St George Illawarra Dragons back-rower Luciano Leilua. ©NRL Photos

Players who get limited time during an NRL match usually do extra training to maintain their fitness but most would rather play another game if they had the choice.

“I love footy so it is not that hard if you love playing,” Leilua said. “I will do whatever I have got to do to keep myself in the team for the second round.”

After the departure of Joel Thompson to the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles, Leilua was under consideration for the starting left second-row position but Tariq Sims performed better in the trials and the 22-year-old admits he still has work to do to fulfil his potential.

“I have got to earn my minutes, if I come off the bench I have got to make it my spot,” he said. “The team is going really well, they did an outstanding job [against the Broncos].

“Tariq did really well and I will just come off the bench or do whatever I have to do. I think this is the year [for him], I’ve just got to focus on the little things, work hard and take it week by week or day by day.”