Salford Red Devils v Leeds Rhinos - Robert Lui plans to celebrate at former club’s expense

LEEDS RHINOS’ Australian stand-off Robert Lui will turn 30 tomorrow, but whether he is celebrating or not depends on events this afternoon at his old stamping ground.

Robert Lui: Switched from Salford to Leeds Rhinos.
Robert Lui: Switched from Salford to Leeds Rhinos.

Not only will Lui be making his first playing return to AJ Bell Stadium since leaving to join Leeds last June, but also it is his 100th Super League appearance and he will go head to head with the player who replaced him at Salford Red Devils, Tui Lolohea.

That all adds up to a big game for Lui, who is hoping to inspire Leeds to a second successive victory following their nine-try, 52-10 demolition of Hull KLR eight days ago.

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That got Rhinos off the mark for the season and set up an intriguing showdown with last year’s Grand Final runners-up. Lui’s transfer cost him an appearance at Old Trafford, while Lolohea went from battling against relegation with Leeds to contending for the title at Salford.

Despite that, Lui insisted he has no regrets, stressing he was happy for his former club.

“I wasn’t really thinking that, everything happens for a reason and coming here I knew I had a job to do, that was to keep Leeds safe,” he said.

Though Salford have lost two of their opening three games this term, including a 12-10 home reverse by Huddersfield Giants last week, Lui warned: “The boys who got to the Grand Final, some of them are still there so they have got that DNA.

“Tui will be up for a big game against his old team – and the same for myself. We have just got to focus on us. When we played KR, we had a good game-plan so we will have a look at Salford and go in with a good game-plan again.

“We have to stick to it, complete our sets and put the ball in the corner.

“If we play like that, we are a hard team to beat.”

Lui played alongside the 2019 Man of Steel Jackson Hastings at Salford and is now paired in Leeds’ halves with the 2017 winner of that award, Luke Gale.

Their combination will be crucial to Rhinos’ hopes of turning their fortunes around this year after successive battles against relegation.

“He is starting to get his mojo back and I can feed off him,” said Lui of former Castleford Tigers star Gale, who missed the entire 2019 season due to injury.

“We have both been in the game a long time now and all we have to do is manage. We have got the speed and the size in the middle and out in the backs.

“Me and Galey have to stick to the game-plan Rich (Agar, Rhinos’ coach) gives us, manage the boys and put it in the corner.”

Agar regards the kicking game from Lui and Gale as integral to Rhinos’ prospects not only for today but the season as a whole.

Leeds scored four tries from kicks last week, having managed just 11 in the whole of 2019. Agar stressed: “Our tries from kicks last year was the second-lowest in the competition so it has been a bit of a goal of ours to try and significantly fix that.

“From last week, it would be nice to think we have made some improvements in that area and we can carry that on.”