Wigan captain Thomas Leuluai has revealed how he managed to get himself fit in just six weeks to make his return from injury for the Challenge Cup final.
Leuluai, 36, suffered a knee injury during the club’s Good Friday defeat to St Helens in Super League. He was expected to miss 12-weeks of action, but was named on the bench for Wigan in the cup final at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
He came on to feature at hooker, before returning to the field in the halves to replace the injured Cade Cust in the second half to help the side to their 16-14 victory.
“I pushed it really hard and I’ve got to thank the physios, who worked hard on me,” Leuluai said.
“At the start I got told it was 12 weeks but I got back in six. I lived like a nun for three weeks – my diet was perfect.
“I went full whack and I said to my wife, ‘I need to do all I can to get in the team if there’s a chance’, so I’ve got to give special thanks to her.
“And the club were really good, they bought me a sauna blanket at home which I jumped in every night.
“We literally threw everything at it – altitude chambers and ice baths, I was getting massages and trained pretty much non stop for three weeks to try and get right.”
Thomas Leuluai praises Harry Smith
Leuluai’s injury gave 22-year-old Harry Smith the opportunity to start in the halves for Matt Peet’s side. The academy graduate scored Wigan’s first try before setting up the winning try for Liam Marshall to score in the corner for the 16-14 triumph.
“I thought Harry Smith was really good, how he didn’t win man of the match, I don’t know,” Leuluai said.
“I told him to take control of the game and I’ll just back him up. He showed great composure, made a line break, scored a try and set up the winner so his family should be very proud of him.
“He’s grown so much in the last six weeks since I’ve been out and I think he’ll grow from this.
“I don’t want to hang around too long. Part of my role when I re-signed this year was to bring Harry on, so maybe my job’s done.
“I’m grateful to still be playing at my age and to win a Challenge Cup at my age.
“The last thing I want to do is go round too long but I’ll make a call on that. I’m not fussed, I’m prepared for retirement.
“It’s not like I’m chasing anything. If I can give something back to the group and they still want me to, then perhaps. If not, then I’ll go my own way.”