NRL Premiership winner John Asiata says he will be forever grateful to Leigh for helping him fall in love with rugby league again.
This time six months ago Asiata was unsure whether he would play a professional game of rugby league again. He didn’t want to have the Covid vaccine which was mandatory for all NRL players at the time, and he was without a contract.
But promotion-chasing Championship club Leigh offered Asiata and his family a new lease of life in Northern England ahead of this season.
At Christmas, Asiata doubted he would play again. Now, he couldn’t imagine his life without the game he loves, and that’s partly down to the way Leigh have taken him in.
“I sort of wasn’t in the mindset of playing the game again because of what happened with my situation,” Asiata told Love Rugby League.
“A lot happened that year with my neck injury and then obviously the vaccination thing happened as well. I lost the love for the game because it felt like I had no-one on my side but then I got given this opportunity.
“I wanted to come to find that love for the game again and I didn’t want to rush into anything. Leigh was a good place to come with Lammy (Adrian Lam) being the coach and knowing a few players here already. I came with the expectation of just having fun playing footy and just enjoying the game again and that’s what I’m doing at the moment.
“I’ve found my love for the game again”
“I’ve just got to a point where I have found my love for the game again. I think it is all down to just seeing my family enjoy life. There is no pressure, everyone is pretty calm and just having fun.
“We are a whole new team which is another positive. Having a new team is like having a clean slate, we can build our foundations from the start and that has been the positive for coming here. No-one is already in a spot, everyone has to work for it. The best thing was for me to come here on a clean slate and just work hard again and start again.”
John Asiata: Spurs the best stadium I will play at
The 29-year-old forward has quickly become a fan’s favourite on the terraces at the Leigh Sports Village.
And on Saturday, Asiata will try to help the Centurions get their hands on the 1895 Cup. They face Championship rivals Featherstone at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium – the best ground Asiata says he will have played at during his career.
He added: “I don’t pay too much attention on grounds and stuff like that but when we made the final Joey Mellor sent me a link to the ground that shows how they change it when the NFL comes to play and it is unbelievable.
“It will be hands down the best stadium I will play at. To come from Australia to play in a big stadium like that will be unreal and it will be a good experience for myself and my family.”
Asiata could feature at this year’s World Cup, having previously represented both his Samoan and Tongan heritage on the international stage.