Lealiifano aiming for major off-field milestone

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Christian Lealiifano is feeling as fit as he has in years and with the 2019 Super Rugby around the corner, the Brumbies flyhalf is hoping to pass a major off-field milestone by the end of this month.

Lealiifano is hoping to reach a significant mark in his recovery from leukaemia in the coming weeks - two years cancer-free.

The 30-year-old was diagnosed with leukaemia in August 2016, undergoing a bone marrow transplant and treatment, before going into remission in January 2017.

He made a remarkable comeback to rugby at the tail end of that 2017 Super Rugby season, before playing back-to-back campaigns with Ireland’s Ulster, the Brumbies in Super Rugby and most recently in the Japanese Top League.

With just weeks until the start of the 2019 Super Rugby season, Lealiifano said on Thursday he felt as good as he had before his illness and is hoping to tick off that major mark in his recovery.

“It’s been over two years now and I think I need to see the specialist in Melbourne and here (Canberra) to work on the two-year work up," he said.

“Usually, I think he (the specialist) said, at the two-year mark you’re sort of cancer-free, that’s when they can sort of give you that...but he’s really happy with how I’m going, it’s always a work in progress and something we’ve got to keep monitoring but so far so good and grateful for each day I get.

“I emailed him the other day and he’s keen to get me down there before the end of January.

“So, hopefully before the season starts we can get that all cleared away and rip in to Super Rugby.”

Putting on weight was one of the most significant challenges for Lealiifano as he worked his way back into rugby but this year he is feeling back at his peak size, admitting

“Looking back, I probably felt as good as I could be back then but was probably still a little bit off in terms of what I could produce and my playing ability,” he said.

“That’s what I’m excited about is that I’m feeling as fit as I felt before I was sick and now we’re raring to go.

“I’ve been working hard to try and put a little bit more (weight) on to be able to cope on the field.

“I think it’s just about getting my technique right and being able to cope with the rigours and physicality of Super Rugby.”

While Lealiifano is ready to lead on the field, he kept his cards close to his chest on whether he and lock Sam Carter would share the captaincy duties at the Brumbies for the third year.

Lealiifano said the captains had yet to be decided for 2019, though he was happy with the current arrangement, but pointed to David Pocock as another possible candidate.

“It’ll be up to Dan (Brumbies coach Dan McKellar) again and the coaching and the leadership group who we want to represent our group,’ he said.

“We’ve done it in the past and we’re all capable – there’s obviously David (Pocock) coming back as well.

“We’ll see where we get to with that.”