Opportunity knocks as Castleford Tigers’ Jesse Sene-Lefao uses extra time wisely

IF ANYONE could smile throughout lockdown inevitably it had to be Castleford Tigers’ Jesse Sene-Lefao who views the experience as “the biggest opportunity” of his life.

Widely thought of as rugby league’s most positive person with a beaming grin that only seems to ever disappear when he is launching into an opponent, the popular back-row has certainly made the most of it.

It should come as no real surprise given how, with his infectious laugh and ceaseless energy, he has such a cheerful outlook on all matters.

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Asked about how he has coped since Covid-19 shut the sport down, New Zealand-born Sene-Lefao said: “A lot of answers I’ve heard have been pretty negative – hard and tough – but, for me, honestly, I see it as the biggest opportunity I’ve ever had in my life.

LIFE AND SOUL: Castleford Tigers' Jesse Sene-Lefao. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

“I know we’ve stopped playing rugby and rugby is a big part of my life – I love competing and being on the field – but I’ve taken this opportunity as a big learning curve. I’ve got to learn certain courses and strategies that I’ve always wanted to do.

“I’ve gone out and understood business and done a few courses that benefited myself in mind and also for life after rugby.

“But also my time with my family has been very precious.

“Being away from each other for most of the year last year due to a family problem has really given me time to catch up with my wife and my kids.”

IN THE THICK OF IT: Castleford Tigers' Tigers Jesse Sene-Lefao is tackled by Hull FC's Sika Manu and Albert Kelly during a Super League clash last season. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe .

Sene-Lefao, who won the 2017 League Leaders’ Shield and reached a maiden Grand Final in his first year at Wheldon Road, has maximised life’s small things.

He said: “Being able to eat dinner together every night has been nice. And being able to share with the kids what we want to achieve after lockdown and during it; it’s been goal-driven within the family. I know it sounds positive. But it’s powerful.

“You can take it both ways; either look at lockdown and say the world’s against me, I’m stuck at home, bored and playing Fortnite every night. But you’re not bettering yourself in any way.

“Or look at it the other way and you realise you’ve never had this much time to actually do the things you wanted to do better.

“You wanted to fix the part of the garden but were too busy at work? Well, that should be smashed now!”

Part of the 30-year-old’s energies have been focused on building his knowledge of the property business ready for when he retires from the sport.

“I recently finished a course on Samuel Tak Lee (Hong Kong property magnate),” he said.

“The networking and amount of chats I’ve had over Zoom with various business owner property entrepreneurs and investors, I’d never have that opportunity to talk to people like that.

“To learn their vocabulary and how they started to get to where they are has been really helpful and it’s knowledge that I’ll never lose.

“I am interested in property and I’ve been building a team around me so when I’m ready to do a deal, I’ve the networks that can help me get to the next level.”

A devout Christian, even not being able to attend his church has not left the Samoa international disillusioned.

“Life Church Leeds has a live event every Sunday from 10am,” explained Sene-Lefao.

“Spiritually I’m connected through there. I also have a few WhatsApp groups and we’re all Christians on there.

“Every Tuesday everyone checks in and gives a score out of five for their mental state, exercise and nutrition. That stands for MEN and it’s through a group called Solid MEN.

“If you see one of the brothers with a low score – a two or a one – you give them a call and ask what’s up?

“People have called me saying they’d seen my mindset might be a bit low this week and is there anything you want to pray for, or any problems? It’s there for just that. Or you can just help by doing something for them. It is helping a lot.

“And hopefully we all will be back playing again soon.”

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