Major signing Ricky Leutele is aiming to lead Huddersfield Giants to glory

From the trauma of Toronto Wolfpack’s demise to the thrill of playing for eventual NRL champions Melbourne Storm, Ricky Leutele experienced both sides of rugby league last year.

This time around, the Samoa centre wants less drama and to only enjoy the highs with new club Huddersfield Giants – something he firmly believes he can.

Leutele, 30, arrived last month and his capture is a major coup for the West Yorkshire club.

An NRL Grand Final winner with Cronulla Sharks, the classy three-quarter joined Toronto in 2019 and helped them win promotion out of the Championship.

However, their Super League debut campaign ended early and disastrously. The Canadian franchise withdrew from the competition in July because of the coronavirus pandemic but players were also left unpaid and Leutele eventually had to leave his home after his visa in England expired.

Thankfully, with just 20 minutes to spare before the NRL transfer deadline, he signed for Melbourne in August and featured for them against St George-Illawarra before the club went on their surge to another title.

Brisbane-born Leutele conceded he did have some second thoughts about moving his family back across to the other side of the world given what happened with crisis-torn Wolfpack and also the pandemic issues.

“I did at first but then we thought it would be best to come while my kids are still young and try and win some trophies with this team here at Giants,” he added, admitting he is impressed with 22-year-old Huddersfield-born centre Jake Wardle.

Out of the pack: Toronto Wolfpack's Ricky Leutele, in Challenge Cup against Huddersfield, has signed for the Giants.

“Jake’s been really good. I didn’t realise how young he was until I asked him last week. He’s very athletic and he’s got a bright future in rugby league.

“We have a few good centres: Leroy (Cudjoe), Jake, Sam Wood and some young fellas coming through, too, so it’s great.

“We have some pretty good outside backs all competing for some spots there. The coaching staff keeps us honest and it’s a grind which is good.”

Under new head coach Ian Watson, Huddersfield have recruited heavily, not least with Leutele but also Great Britain second-row Josh Jones, England forward Joe Greenwood and half-back Jack Cogger from the NRL.

Leutele helped Cronulla finally win their first Championship in 2016.

The Sharks were founded in 1963, a year after Huddersfield last won the title. It will be interesting to see if the high-profile recruit can now help them end their own barren run.

Although the majority of Super League clubs voted against giving Toronto a reprieve, Leutele feels rugby league can still flourish in Canada.

Ottawa Aces start in League One in 2022 and he said: “It’s pretty disappointing the Super League clubs didn’t get to go experience Toronto.

“I feel it’d probably have been a different outcome if they did. But there’s definitely a fan base; the fans over there love it.”

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