He’s a natural: Insight into Thomas Leuluai’s coaching switch

Josh McAllister
Thomas Leuluai. PA

Thomas Leuluai worked as New Zealand's assistant coach during the 2021 World Cup. Picture by Mike Egerton/PA Wire/PA Images.

Wigan boss Matt Peet has praised Thomas Leuluai as a ‘natural’ following his switch to the Super League side’s coaching staff for the 2023 campaign. 

The former club captain retired at the conclusion of the 2022 campaign, but not before representing New Zealand one final time against Leeds prior to joining their coaching staff for the delayed 2021 World Cup campaign.

Leuluai enjoyed 20 seasons as a professional player, having won two Grand Finals with Wigan, as well as the Harry Sunderland Trophy in the 2010 victory over St Helens.

He also won the League Leaders’ Shield on three occasions with the Warriors alongside two Challenge Cups and the World Club Challenge in 2017.

On the international stage, the half-back or hooker won the World Cup with the Kiwis in 2008 and the Four Nations two years later.

And now he’s now well into the next chapter of his career, working as Wigan’s assistant coach alongside former captain and team-mate Sean O’Loughlin.

“Thomas Leuluai is a natural”

“For us and everyone watching, it seemed very natural,” Peet told Love Rugby League on Leuluai

“I think behind the scenes he’s probably found a big shift in his working pattern and the conversations he gets involved in now and meetings and things like that. But he’s a natural

“His game IQ, his intelligence around the group and his leadership qualities have been great.

“I used to draw on him probably anyway as would Lockers (O’Loughlin) and the coaching team.

“He was almost like a member of staff anyway so it’s been quite a straightforward transition from my point of view.”

Half-backs Cade Cust and Harry Smith also commended Leuluai’s move into the coaching team, having played as team-mates less than five months ago.

“It’s been perfect for us” – Cust on Leuluai

“It’s been very beneficial for Harry and I,” said Australian half-back Cust.

“He’s obviously been around for 20 years in the game. He’s helping us out and it’s been very valuable really.

“It’s been perfect for us.”

Smith, 23, received shirt number seven for the 2023 campaign, previously worn by Leuluai for the last four seasons at the DW Stadium.

And the former academy captain is ready to take on the permanent role, with the continued guidance from his former skipper.

The club’s 2022 Young Player of the Year added: “He was a bit of a coach to me anyway as a young lad coming through.

“He’s brought some new ideas to the attack and I think it’s going to be really exciting.”

READ NEXT: It’s special: Wigan’s Harry Smith on receiving shirt number seven for 2023 season

PODCAST: Listen to all previous episodes of the Love Rugby League Podcast