2016 Biggest storylines: Rugby rallies around Lealiifano

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

As 2016 ticks down, rugby.com.au is looking back at some of the biggest moments and storylines of the Australian rugby year.


Rugby world rallies around Christian Lealiifano

In probably the most sobering moment of the 2016 rugby year, Brumbies captain and fan favourite Christian Lealiifano was diagnosed with leukaemia. 

What initially began as a feeling of constant fatigue, Lealiifano went for a blood test and was hit with the shocking news in August.

Just two months earlier, the playmaker had become a father for the first time, to son Jeremih, and made his return to the Wallabies fold, playing his first Test since 2013.

It was news that hit home to all corners of the rugby community and in fact many parts of the globe far away from Australia, with many of Lealiifano’s former teammates showing their support for him by shaving their heads.

A handful of Wallabies took the step of shaving their heads ahead of the first Bledisloe, in solidarity with Lealiifano, a teammate and friend of many.

The 29-year-old has been receiving chemotherapy treatment in Melbourne, where much of his family lives, receiving visits, with the possibility of a bone marrow transplant down the track.

Lealiifano played a special role for club team, Tuggeranong as they took out the John I Dent Cup final for the sixth time in eight years, giving his boots to Dean Oakman-Hunt

He has already been ruled out of playing rugby for at least the 2017 season but the Brumbies have said they would offer him a coaching position should his career come to a premature end.

This was another acute blow for the Brumbies in a tumultuous season for the franchise, after Ita Vaea’s retirement for health reasons and a number of administration controversies.

Lealiifano’s disease makes an incredible on-field year even more extraordinary, with the Brumbies 10 claiming the Brett Robinson Medal as the best Brumbies player of 2016, and also voted as the RUPA Medal of Excellence winner.

Let's look back at the countdown so far

Number 10 : Sydney Bledisloe

Number 9: Wallabies' generation next

Number 8: Global player routes

Number 7: Super Rugby cleanouts.

Number 6. Brumbies vs Michael Jones

Number 5: What will become of the Force?

Number 4: Former Wallabies hit out at the ARU