The man behind the smile: Jesse Sene-Lefao

The likelihood is that if you’ve ever met Jesse Sene-Lefao, he’s had a smile on his face.

With a cheesy grin and an infectious character to go with it, the 29-year-old has become one of the most likeable players in the game today.

But while his boundless energy has had an undoubted impact on Castleford ever since he arrived in West Yorkshire back in 2017, behind the happy-go-lucky persona is a Rugby League player who endures all the strains and tribulations any other professional sportsman experiences.

Last season was a frustrating one for the New Zealander. After a sensational maiden season, 2018 didn’t quite go to plan.

Sene-Lefao is a goal setter, a man who sets targets day to day in order to realise his end goal.

But while having aspirations can be a great motivational tool, they can also provide mental challenges when things don’t quite go to plan.

“That was pretty much the season I had last year,” he told TotalRL.

“I had a big year planned ahead. But this is Rugby League and injuries happen, some of them held me back from what I wanted to do. Mentally you go through a stage where you question yourself, but my faith in Jesus Christ helped me. I think praying and keeping thoughts to him helped me through my last few months of footy.

“I’m a positive guy but I think people see us as guys who get paid to play rugby. They don’t see the mental side, the things you lose, the time away from your family. It can catch up with you. Even myself, I meet those barriers and obstacles.

“But I have good people around me, my family, my friends and even my church. They really help you motivate yourself. You could have just a couple of hours of depression, but then you’ve got 22 hours to make something out of the rest of the day.”

The Samoan international admits to feeling refreshed after a return to his homeland and is ready to attack this year day by day and week by week in order to produce the best form of his career.

“I’ve set more goals this year as an individual player.

“I want to send a statement out this year and be a big part in our team. I need to be flying and playing the best footy I can. I’m getting older now and need to take a bit more responsibility. I feel like I’ve come a long way and can have the best year I’ve had.”

He hopes that by performing to his optimum level he can help Castleford finally realise their ultimate goal, Grand Final glory.

Castleford’s squad has been accused by its own head coach of needing a change in mentality to overcome their big game stutters. Sene-Lefao is confident they have fixed up those frailties.

“The beginning of the season is massive for us, to see where we’re at. Training has kind of changed this year so it’ll be interesting to see how we start and our combinations, I’m really looking forward to it.

“We’ve been put under more stress. They’ve really nailed putting us under fatigue in the pre-season, but still making good decisions under pressure. Hopefully that can help us but to be quite honest you never know until you hit the field.”