Featherstone’s high-profile overseas recruit Joey Leilua is due to jet into the UK in the middle of this month after making a successful first foray into professional boxing.
The Samoa international, who has moved from Wests Tigers on a reported two-year deal, outpointed former England and NRL player and fellow debutant Chris Heighington over four rounds.
The twice Dally M centre of the year was a 38-37, 39-27, 39-27 winner in the heavyweight bout, which was part of a Rugby League-themed fight night in Sydney.
In the headline contest, former Australia forward and Cronulla captain Paul Gallen survived a first-round scare to beat ex-Manly, Parramatta, Toronto and Salford prop Darcy Lussick, who had one game on loan with Featherstone in 2021 while also playing four games for Salford.
The third-round stoppage at heavyweight stretched the one-time New South Wales Origin star’s professional boxing record to twelve wins from 14.
While Featherstone will be breathing a sigh of relief after Leilua appeared to come through the experience unscathed, the 30-year-old said: “I knew I could fight. I just wanted to show the world.”
Rovers Chairman Mark Campbell has labelled the former Sydney Roosters, Newcastle and Canberra star, twice a Grand Finalist, as “one of the most significant signings in the club’s history”.
Campbell, who has brought in Brian McDermott as coach, is desperate to lead his club to Super League after Million Pound Game defeats against Toronto and Toulouse in the last three years.
Leilua’s switch to the Championship represents a bid to revive his career after a controversial exit from Wests Tigers, where he fell out of favour with coach Michael Maguire.
He believes preparing for his boxing bout has helped him refocus and predicts he will “be hitting the ground running” when he starts training with the club.
“It has kind of reset me mentally for footy again and I can’t wait to get back out and enjoy my time over there and experience life in England,” he explained.
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