Former Wallaby Lealiifano ready to inspire at Moana Pasifika

Source: 1News

It hasn’t taken Christian Lealiifano long to find some drive at his new team Moana Pasifika, with the former Wallabies playmaker joining teammates to spread some Christmas cheer in Auckland.

Fresh out of MIQ, Lealiifano and other from Moana Pasifika were on hand Wednesday to help the Sir Michael Jones Village Trust in delivering food and gifts to the community.

Lealiifano told 1News the occasion added to the warm feeling he was already getting from his new club.

“It sort of feels like family straight away because you’ve got similar backgrounds and that sort of stuff,” Lealiifano said.

“It’s a true privilege and honour to be given the opportunity to represent Moana Pasifika and I guess the purpose and the ‘why’ is a big thing for a lot of our boys here - to represent our people and our ancestors and those that’ve gone before us.”

Lealiifano was born in Auckland but found a career in rugby after moving to Australia with family when he was seven.

He quickly made a name for himself during his high school years, earning a place in Australian Schoolboys team in 2004 and 2005 before joining the Brumbies’ rugby academy in 2006.

Christian Lealiifano

After winning the 2006 Under-19 Rugby World Cup for Australia, Lealiifano then went on to make his Super Rugby debut with the Brumbies in 2008, clocking up over 100 appearances for the club since.

However, the 34-year-old’s world was then turned upside down when he was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2016.

Despite being told he may never play again, Lealiifano recovered in a year and managed a return to rugby. He added a remarkable chapter to his comeback in 2019 when he was selected to the Wallabies and went on to play at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

With rugby settling to life in the Covid-19 era, Lealiifano earlier this year confirmed he would leave the Brumbies for a new start at Moana Pasifika in 2022.

“It’s been a fair bit of a journey and something I feel blessed for every day to be here and I count my blessings,” Lealiifano said, reflecting on his career.

“If I can offer some inspiration and leadership in and around the guys and motivation to continue to strive to be their best versions of themselves, we’re going a long way to achieving what we want to achieve.”

That includes actions away from the pitch, which is why Lealiifano said efforts like Wednesday’s charitable work is so important.

Moana Pasifika players help out at a food bank drive in South Auckland.

“It’s really humbling to see what Sir Michael Jones and his team and family do here in the village and what they do for the community is truly special.

“I think a lot of the boys felt that walking in today, seeing all the hard work and literal blood, sweat and tears with all the hard work going into packing boxes and getting them out to the community and the vulnerable communities.

“We’re just trying to do our small part trying to contribute to help the families that are vulnerable and in need… it’s part of who we are as people.”

Lealiifano added he wants to make people smile on the field too though.

“We definitely want to be competitive,” he said.

“I think from the outset as a new team we want to be exciting and hopefully get some support from our people and make them proud.”