From a high school student to international rugby professional, Manu Samoa’s breakout star, D’Angelo Leuila is ready to don the blue jersey once again.
Fresh from the Northern Hemisphere tour, Leuila is ready and raring to make Samoa proud.
On island trialing for the Samoa’s 10’s team, the Samoa Observer caught up with the Manu Samoa star.
Talking about his experience with training with the Ten’s team, he said, “It’s a really good opportunity for me to showcase more of myself and not only to help myself but also to help Samoa as a country to make other countries realize there’s potential in Samoa. Not just N.Z., Australia, France, there’s a lot of potential for the boys who can shine in these kinds of competitions. I think it’s a real good opportunity for me to be here and try out for the Ten’s. If I do get picked and get a chance to represent Samoa, that will be great.”
Leuila is most noted for his outstanding performance in the Northern Hemisphere tour against Canada, where his golden boot sunk the opposition.
However, when reminiscing on that fateful day, he reckons it was a collective effort that helped secure the win for the Manu, not his individual effort alone.
“I kind of don’t really agree when people say I’m the star of the game. I think it just came to all the boys just doing their job and when they do their job it makes mine easier on the field. I think it was a team effort and it was probably why I looked good because all the boys did their jobs which made mine easier, “ he said.
“It was pretty intense. The Georgia game was pretty tough during the last few minutes and trying to get the boys back up. We were going so well and we were getting back up and getting back into the game but I think we were a bit too late. Then we made sure throughout the week as we were preparing for the Canada game, that we addressed every little detail in defense and attack and everything went well. It certainly showed in that last game.”
The Northern Hemisphere tour was Leuila’s first tour with the Manu and one he will never forget.
“It was good. I had heaps of fun being around the senior boys with them helping me out and telling me what to do. But it was a good experience for me as well to know what it’s like outside of Samoa and New Zealand. It was a good campaign. Being around all the boys and getting to know them better was the best part.”
It’s interesting to think that just 3 years ago this young man was a Papatoetoe High School student and now he is a rising rugby professional.
Leuila credits his modest and humble upbringing that helped mold him into the man he is today. Originally from Papatoetoe, South Auckland, Leuila said, “I’ve been there for about 18 years in the same house since my grandparents moved from here to New Zealand. We’ve never moved. People think that staying in New Zealand, you have a lot, but for me growing up, we didn’t really have a lot. You know you’ve got a nice house and roof above your head but you still have strict parents . I’d never thought I’d make it this far, but it’s blessings from the man above that have got me here.”
Leuila was named “Breakout Star of the Year” late last year. He admits that he was a bit surprised but thankful for the award from Head Coach, Namulauulu Alama Ieremia.
“I actually didn’t know until like three days after when my mom tagged me in this post when she saw it on the page. I was quite surprised. I thank God that I got it but a lot of the boys also played well. Like I said before, I think it just came down to the boys doing their job which made mine easier. It was a good campaign, but I was just surprised, overwhelmed and happy as well.” When Leuila’s not on the field, he spends most of his down time with his family soaking it up before he gets the next call up.
“I’m just hanging out with family in the offseason. Hanging out with family and spending as much time with them because nowadays, playing international rugby is going to take a lot of time away from home. I try to get in as much family time in as I can, because at the moment, I only get a small amount of time with them. I cherish those times. That’s basically what I do , hang out with family and go to church,” he said.
Looking ahead to the future, the young man who hails from Fagali’i and Gataivai, Savaii said he wants to retire in the blue jersey.
“That’s my goal, to stay in that jersey until I retire. I don’t want to miss campaigns and tours. My whole career I want to stay in that blue jersey. It means a lot to me. Even though some of the boys think, “These boys come from New Zealand, they don’t know what it means to wear the jersey.”
“But it’s really important to me as well . All my life it’s been about the blue jersey. A lot of people think that when we come from N.Z., it’s all about the black jersey. But for me growing up, I always watched Samoa’s games and wanted to play for Samoa. Here I am now wearing the blue jersey and nothing makes me happier then wearing it. I mean wearing it has much more meaning than the black. It’s our home country and it’s really important to me to play for my country. It means a lot to my family as well. I’ve always had people ask questions whether I wanted to play for New Zealand and I just told the truth. I would tell them, “I ‘m going to play for Samoa”. They would say, “Why? You would have a good support system here in New Zealand.”
“But for me, it’s all about playing in the blue jersey. No words can explain how much it means. When I put it on the first time, I couldn’t hold back tears and was so happy that I got to wear it. Wearing the blue jersey is the best thing that has ever happened. “