How Thomas Leuluai made miraculous recovery to help Wigan Warriors lift Challenge Cup

Thomas Leuluai turned up the heat on himself and Huddersfield to help Wigan win the Challenge Cup for the first time since 2013.

The veteran skipper was supposed to be out for twelve weeks after picking up a knee injury during the Good Friday Super League defeat by St Helens.

But he returned in half that time as he came off the bench to face the Giants in Saturday’s final at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, where Liam Marshall’s late try, following a looping Leuluai pass and Harry Smith kick, sealed a dramatic 16-14 victory in front of 51,628 spectators.

The 36-year-old Kiwi spent time under a sauna blanket as part of his quickfire recovery process, explaining: “I lived like a nun for three weeks. I threw everything at it.

“I said to the wife that I needed to do all I could to give myself and the team a chance and I must give special thanks to her.

“She’s got three kids at home. There was a lot of time spent doing other stuff to try to get myself right. I’m grateful for the part she played.

“I’ve also got to thank the physios. They worked overtime. I was getting massage, training and swimming, and I knew in the week that I’d be ready.

“When Matty (Peet, coach) told me he was looking for me, I thought I could do it.

“I rushed it and Matty had trust in me and I’m so grateful we got the win so I could repay that trust.

“After a game like that there’s no pain. The knee felt fine. It was more physically that I hurt, because I’d only run for two weeks.”

Leuluai was quick to praise fellow halfback Smith, 22, adding: “Harry was good today. I don’t know how he didn’t get man of the match.

“I remember just coming in the halves and saying you take control and I’ll just back you up.

“And he came up with a massive play. He was outstanding. I told him it was his game. He showed great composure. He came up with a line break, scored a try and set up the winner.

“Harry has just grown so much in the last six weeks since I’ve been out. He offers so much with his kicking game and his composure.

“It was a fantastic effort and he should be very proud. And his family should be very proud.”

Leuluai is contracted until the end of this season and continued: “I don’t want to hang around too long.

“Part of my role when signing for this year was to kind of bring Harry on. Maybe my job’s done here.

“I’m grateful to be still playing at my age and to win the Challenge Cup.

“As for retirement, maybe the injury’s a sign. The last thing I’d want to do is go around too long when I’m not wanted or can’t perform to a level where I feel I contribute to the team.”

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