Cheika backs Lealiifano to fight leukaemia

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Wallabies are rallying around back Christian Lealiifano, after news of his leukaemia diagnosis.

Lealiifano’s diagnosis was revealed over the weekend, sending shockwaves through the rugby community, with hundreds sending messages of support to the much-loved Brumbies captain.

Cheika said the overwhelming response in the group was to remain positive and give Lealiifano any support he needed.

“Obviously we’re right behind him. That’s the key, it’s not really important how I react it’s how we back him up and support him in what is a difficult time, but a time that certainly believe he’s going to get through and get through well," he said.

“He’s a tough guy, he’s shown that over many years of playing footy and in the experience I've had with him he’s always shown that and I’m backing him 100 per cent.

“Whatever he needs we’ll be there to provide it for him, around friendship, support, whatever it is, so that he gets through it and beats it quickly.”

A number of the Wallabies visited Lealiifano in hospital in recent days and Cheika said they would stay optimistic for the utility back.

“Knowing Christian - he’s a pretty private humble type of guy,” he said.

“I think we don’t want to be going through the details of what he needs to go through apart from the fact he’s up for it,  there’s no doubt about it.

“The lads have been in contact with him and a fair few of the boys have been to see him already.

“I’m really positive for him and I just believe straight away he’s got the right attitude and he’s going to be in the right headspace to take this front on.”

Those who had been to see Lealiifano came into camp with a simple message for the rest of the group, Cheika said.

“The lads who have been to see him spoke about what we can do to help him,” he said.

“That’s pretty clear, I think it’s important that we do do that because he’s obviously a friend of ours.”

The Brumbies have been rocked by a number of off-field traumas in their past, with former Wallaby Julian Huxley suffering a brain tumour and the tragic death of Shawn Mackay in South Africa in 2009.

Just this year, number eight Ita Vaea was forced to retire for health reasons and Wallabies captain Stephen Moore said those moments simply crystallized the strength of the team.

“I think it doesn't make it any easier but I think the good thing about being part of a team is that you do have other people around to help you along the way when you're doing it tough,” he said.

“That's something we're lucky to have as being part of a team and the Brumbies is certainly a good example of that.

“We have been through it before and it's never a nice thing to go through but we'll certainly stay positive, that's the important thing, that we give Christian plenty of positivity and help him all we can through this.”