Lealiifano's family his own inspiration

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

While the rugby world has been inspired by Christian Lealiifano, the playmaker has found as much inspiration from those who closest to him on his road back to Super Rugby.

Brumbies prop Scott Sio is a close friend of Lealiifano’s and said the 29-year-old was quick to point to his friends and family as his own source of motivation, just shy of a year after a leukaemia diagnosis.

“To think that 12 months ago he was in hospital, all tubes in him doing chemotherapy and he's come out,” Sio said.

“That's the thing I think, today was bigger than rugby.

“He (Lealiifano) reiterated to us that everyone's saying he's been such an inspiration but he said he's been so inspired by us and the support we've given him and that's really got us up after this loss as well, knowing that he draws a lot of inspiration from as much support as we can give him.”

Lealiifano has been a constant source of positivity for the Brumbies, always wearing a smile in public but Sio said that was nothing compared to the joy he emanated at home with his wife Luga and one-year-old son, Jeremih.

“I think his biggest supporter and his number one fan is his son and he doesn't even know it,” he said.

“Not a lot of people get to see how he is at home with little Jeremih, how he is with Luga.

“That's the awesome part for me is to see the kick he gets out of what his son does around, when his son smiles at him, just to see the warmth in his smile back at him.

“Those are the moments that you truly, you sometimes overlook, you don't get to cherish .that's the biggest kick I get out of going over is just to see how he interacts with his son and his family.

“It's pretty unreal and for me it's something I'd like to emulate when I have a family.”

Lealiifano came on earlier than anticipated, with a head knock ending James Dargaville's night, but coach Stephen Larkham said it was pivotal on and off the field.

"We weren’t planning on bringing him on at half-time but we were certainly bringing him on at some stage in the second half and it was good to see him out there," he said.

"It was a little bit emotional to see him in the change rooms take his bib off and I thought he played exceptionally well.

"He had a number of nice touches  on the field, a couple of good carries, a couple of kicks.

"Hopefully we’re going to see a lot more of him next year."

Lealiifano’s return was an emotional moment for spectators and everyone connected with the flyhalf, the beginning of what Sio says points to a positive outlook for the Brumbies, who have unearthed a handful of promising youngsters this season.

“We showed that if we can hold that intensity for 80 minutes, the future's bright for us here,” he said.

“The great thing about it is that we're keeping a lot of the youth here, everyone's going to be that one year wiser and if we do get an opportunity again to play some finals rugby everyone's had that little bit of a taste and we'll be ready for it.”